Many stories have come out following the hacking incident involving the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. This incident has left nothing other than blame games as WhatsApp refuses to take responsibility of the incident as the malware was channeled to the target’s iPhone X through their medium.

Other experts also refuse to accept the notion that the hackers took advantage of vulnerabilities in the Apple device. The hacking of Bezo’s phone has brought the indication that anyone is hackable and no device or platform is free from the touch of hackers.

How Bezo’s iPhone X Was Hacked

It all started on 1 May 2018, when the CEO of Amazon received an encrypted message from the Saudi Crown Prince with a video attachment. There was no explanation for the video as Bezos was not expecting anything from the Saudi Crown Prince even though they had earlier exchanged contacts.

The encrypted WhatsApp file sent by the Saudi Crown Prince contained a 4.4MB video which according to forensic analysis began an authorized exfiltration of data from Bezo’s phone hours after receiving the text. Egress of the iPhone X rapidly jumped to 29,000%, and data going out from the device accelerated without coming back to the baseline.

iPhone X

Image Source: www.theverge.com

Typical of any iPhone, Bezos iPhone X had an average egress of 430KB per day six months before receiving the WhatsApp file. Right after receiving the file, the egress jumped to 126MB per day. The iPhone maintained an average of 101MB egress data per day after the encrypted WhatsApp text. The forensic analysis revealed that the data was transmitted from the device through the cellular network. A full forensic examination of all artifacts established that Bezo’s iPhone X was compromised through the video attachment received by the account of the Saudi Crown Prince.

It was concluded that the iPhone X was compromised on 1 May 2018, and the data exfiltration began thereafter. Some of his data including personal photos, instant messages, text messages, and recordings done through the phone’s microphone were exfiltrated. A number of people were quick to accuse Apple of weak security following the recent reports concerning how hackers have successfully launched attacks to break into iPhones to steal personal data. WhatsApp has also had its share of the accusation as it is believed that hackers took advantage of the weakness in its system to infect the iPhone X with malware. 

According to the recent interview granted by the Facebook Vice President of Global Affair and Communication Nick Clegg, the attack on Benzos iPhone X has nothing to do with the vulnerabilities of the WhatsApp messenger as it is speculated. According to him, WhatsApp makes use of end-to-end encryption which cannot be hacked. He stated that when a message is sent on WhatsApp, it is end-to-end encrypted. This pushes the blame on the iPhone operating system. Clegg compared the malware incident to the email malware which only runs after the target opens the malicious file. Once the file is opened, it no more becomes the messaging app responsibility, but the operating system of the phone. 

According to Alex Stalmos, a former Facebook Security Officer until 2018, Clegg is right on the fact that WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted. However, he is applying that fact to the wrong issue. He then said that Cregg needs a better staff briefing on this issue. Clegg’s statement condemning the possible WhatsApp vulnerabilities which may have been taken advantage of by hackers has forced people to question his understanding of the whole issue.

Clegg comparing the incident to email malware which only runs after being opened by the receiver just to disassociate itself from the incident has been proven wrong by previous reports revealing vulnerabilities in the WhatsApp messenger that can be taken advantage of by malware without any action by the receiver. Also, the many reports linking the incident to the video attachment sent by the WhatsApp account of the Saudi Crown Prince has been said to lack evidence.

iPhone X

Image Source: www.nypost.com

It was reported that surveillance software was being installed on the device of WhatsApp users as attackers use the WhatsApp video calling function to call targets. In this case, the software would be installed if the call is answered or not according to the report. The software was allegedly devised by an Israeli group NSO group. It was discovered by Facebook according to a report. WhatsApp even encouraged its users to update their apps as a precautionary measure. With this report, a number of people still believe that the vulnerabilities of the WhatsApp messenger were taken advantage of instead of the iPhone X of Bezos.

This incident establishes that every device is hackable. However, it is important to update applications and device software to the latest release and avoid downloading apps from untrusted websites.

Source: Livemint


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