How would you feel if someone invaded your privacy and exposed your activities to the public? That’s one of the biggest threats caused by hackers, who are only getting more bold with the malware and ransomware they deploy.
Lone hackers are scary enough, but nothing is more terrifying than hackers with the resources of nation-states behind them. Tap or click to learn how North Korea compromised the Google Play Store.
But what if an attack was caused by a world leader instead of a state-sponsored hacking group? Well, that’s what happened to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Investigations allege the Saudi Crown Prince was responsible, and he apparently did it with the push of a button. How is this even possible?
An explosive investigative report from The Guardian alleges Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS as he’s often referred to) was responsible for the 2018 cyberattack on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
This hack exposed several embarrassing details about Bezos’ private life, and ultimately resulted in the divorce from his former spouse MacKenzie Bezos.
Sources with knowledge surrounding the event told the Guardian it was “highly probable” the hack was triggered by a malicious video file Bezos received via WhatsApp during a friendly conversation with MBS. Within hours of receiving the video, large mounts of data were allegedly stolen from Bezos’ phone.
It’s currently unknown exactly what was taken and how it was used. Some speculate it may have played a role in the National Enquirer’s exposé of Bezos’ personal life, which included several private text messages. This allegation has not yet been confirmed.
While the idea of a world leader sending a literal virus to the world’s richest man is shocking, this event only underscores the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital climate.
Even encrypted apps like WhatsApp are no match for specially engineered software that can lie in wait and strike when victims least expect it. It also sets a dangerous precedent for a foreign government hacking a civilian device when neither nation is at war.
If only we knew what was brewing behind the scenes.
This is scary. Could I be next?
As frightening as this incident is, it’s actually not all that new. In fact, North Korea made headlines when investigators found a connection between state-sponsored hackers and the massive WannaCry malware infection. Tap or click here to learn how WannaCry devastated hospitals and businesses.
But an important detail to remember is the fact that MBS allegedly used a malicious file in his attack, rather than brute force. In many ways, it mirrors the tactics of ordinary hackers and ransomware users who trick victims into downloading and opening files that can harm their systems.
That said, the targets on our collective backs are nowhere near as large as the one on Jeff Bezos’. He is still currently the world’s wealthiest human being, and he may very well be the richest person to have ever lived. Period.
As a result of his net worth and business interests, he’s a particularly juicy target for the highest of high-rolling hackers. But other professionals are still at risk if they possess the information and financial status hackers are interested in.
Lawyers, political figureheads and activists have all experienced cyberattacks in some form or another, and knowing how to protect yourself may come in handy if this sort of behavior becomes the norm.
The bigger quesetion: Is WhatsApp unsafe?
In a way, this attack is the perfect proof of concept that cybercrimes can and will happen on secure platforms like WhatsApp. In fact, the app’s encryption helped prevent the malicious file from being detected in the first place.
That said, you shouldn’t fear using WhatsApp if you’re not a VIP. Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company, has even announced that the .mp4 exploit that may have allowed this hack to occur was patched recently.
At the very least, you shouldn’t need to worry about malicious files. But still, there are some basic cybersecurity steps to take for the sake of your privacy. Tap or click to learn how to avoid spammers on WhatsApp.
Always make sure to keep your phone updated with the latest operating system from your manufacturer. If possible, make sure automatic updates is turned on as well, so you don’t miss any security patches.
Many forms of mobile malware take advantage of security holes in operating systems, and software developers release frequent updates to address these issues.
Also, although it should go without saying, never open any files you’re sent unless you’re 100% sure what they are. Jeff Bezos and MBS were on speaking terms, so the video file probably didn’t trigger any red flags. But when you’re talking to people you’re not that close to, stay on the safe side with the files you receive.
It also never hurts to invest in services that protect your identity from phishing and device hijacking attempts. Our sponsor, Identity Guard, uses AI and analytics to keep tabs on your various accounts on the web, as well as any unauthorized activity. Plus, it scans the dark web for your information so you’ll be first to know if a hacker is trying to sell your data.
As the story unfolds, we’ll likely learn more about the methodology and tech behind this world-shaking cyberattack. In the meantime, try to keep your friends close and your enemies off your friend list. There’s no telling what could happen.