Jeff Bezos was allegedly hacked by Saudi prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in another high profile hacking that should leave WhatsApp users around the world concerned and inspire you to change your online behaviour.
Yesterday, Vox reported that Jeff Bezos had been the victim of a hacking when his iPhone was hacked through malware that he picked up via a video shared on WhatsApp. The hacking uncovered his private photos, and exposed his participation in an extra-marital affair.
It is alleged that Bezo’s was hacked by Saudi Arabia’s Crowned Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS). At the time, MBS was upset by the dissident voice in Bezos-owned publication, The Washington Post, that was Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was brutally assassinated on 2 October 2018.
In short, Bezos who’s the richest man in the world (with a net worth of $115.6 billion) got caught up in a geopolitical affair and fell victim to the de facto leader of one of the wealthiest and most brutal dictatorial regimes on earth – all because he’s the owner of a massive publication.
But Bezos is a billionaire, so obviously he’ll be a target. Ordinary people like you and I won’t be targeted… we’re not even worth $1 million, let alone $100 BILLION+ right?
As the CEO of one of the biggest tech companies in the world, you can be assured that Bezos is well versed in cybersecurity. Yet, as reported by The Financial Times, Bezos’ iPhone was hacked as a result of a malware-containing video that he received through private conversations. MBS and Bezos reportedly speak over WhatsApp.
WhatsApp’s privacy settings are among the best and it uses highly effective end-to-end encryption, which protects your messages from being seen by outside parties – even Facebook, who owns WhatsApp. However, if your phone downloads a video or other media, it automatically downloads the malware with it, as explained in another Vox/recode report.
“This is not indicative of a vulnerability in WhatsApp,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in the recode article. “There is nothing they can do when a trusted contact sends you a carefully crafted malicious link.”
“It’s encrypted messages, so you can get a lot of information if you are able to hack WhatsApp successfully,” says Check Point security engineer, Maya Levine in the same report. “WhatsApp is probably the most popular encrypted messaging app worldwide and because of that, it’s maybe targeted a little bit more by hackers. But I wouldn’t say it’s less secure.”
WhatsApp has 1.5 billion active users and chances are that you’re one of them. So, like it or not, you should not be lured into a false sense of security simply because you’re an ordinary person. You ARE vulnerable – even tech billionaires are vulnerable! And cyber-crime, just like regular crime, is often random and not necessarily targeted. The fact that a famous person can be hacked should not make you sleep easily, but should actually keep you up at night. It’s just less likely that hackers will be targeting your photo gallery and more likely that they’ll target your banking apps or something that’s tangibly more important than an attack on your reputation.
What can you do?
Without going into too much detail, here’s a short list of the things you can do to secure your cellphones and other devices:
- Keep updating your apps so that you’re equipped with all of the latest security updates.
- Spend the extra $10 or so every month on a VPN/security suite subscription and add that extra layer of security. It’s highly effective.
- Stop using WhatsApp and switch to more secure instant messengers like Telegram, Threema or Sicher, which come with security features like encrypted local storage, encrypted group chats and encrypted file transfers.
- Use strong passwords.
- Manage your social media privacy settings.
- Secure and strengthen your home/business network.
- Create an action plan for any potential hacking – make sure you know how to respond to a security breach.
- Change your online behaviour and be more vigilant (also educate your kids and monitor their online activity).
As millennials, we’ve been told for years that cybersecurity and privacy are going to play massive roles in our lives one day. However, it pains me to say that, in my experience, people don’t heed to the warnings. It’s one of those “it could never happen to me” kind of things… until it does.
We forget that the Internet is still relatively young. It doesn’t really have much structure; there aren’t many laws… it’s a bit of a cesspool. Basically, it’s anarchy – it’s the Wild West out there! And, as time goes on, cybercriminals are only getting smarter and better at what they do. And, with a global economy that’s failing us, many more people are likely to turn to a life of crime. And, just like we all want to do our jobs online, you can be sure that criminals will prefer to steal from you on the Internet. So you need to stop being negligent when it comes to your online activity and start taking this stuff seriously!