On the afternoon of May 1, 2018, Jeff Bezos received a message on WhatsApp from an account belonging to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The two men had previously communicated using the messaging platform, but Mr. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, had not expected a message that day — let alone one with a video of Saudi and Swedish flags with Arabic text.
The video, a file of more than 4.4 megabytes, was more than it appeared, according to a forensic analysis that Mr. Bezos commissioned and paid for to discover who had hacked his iPhone X. Hidden in that file was a separate bit of code that most likely implanted malware that gave attackers access to Mr. Bezos’ entire phone, including his photos and private communications.
Mr. Bezos has been on a singular quest to find out who penetrated the device since early 2019, when he said The National Enquirer’s parent company had threatened to release private photographs and texts, and the forensic study was part of that effort. Those pictures and messages showed Mr. Bezos, who was married at the time, with another woman, Lauren Sanchez. The analysis did not connect the hack to The Enquirer.