US media questions Bezos hacking claims

In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during his news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP/File)
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Updated 25 January 2020

US media questions Bezos hacking claims

  • Experts said while hack “likely” occurred, investigation leaves too many “unanswered questions”
  • Specialists on Thursday said evidence was not strong enough to confirm

LONDON: An investigation into claims that the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was hacked has been called into question by cybersecurity experts and several major US media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Associated Press (AP).

Specialists on Thursday said evidence from the privately commissioned probe by FTI Consulting is not strong enough for a definitive conclusion, nor does it confirm with certainty that his phone was actually compromised.

The Wall Street Journal reported, late on Friday: “Manhattan federal prosecutors have evidence indicating Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend provided text messages to her brother that he then sold to the National Enquirer for its article about the Amazon.com Inc. founder’s affair, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Experts said while a hack “likely” occurred, the investigation leaves too many “unanswered questions,” including how a hack happened or which spyware program was used, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief of New York-based Cybersecurity Ventures, said the probe makes “reasonable assumptions and speculations,” but does not claim 100 percent certainty or proof.

UK-based cybersecurity consultant Robert Pritchard said: “In some ways, the investigation is very incomplete … The conclusions they’ve drawn, I don’t think, are supported by the evidence. They veered off into conjecture.”

Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, wrote that the FTI probe is filled with “circumstantial evidence but no smoking gun.”

Matt Suiche, a Dubai-based French entrepreneur and founder of cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, told AP that the malicious file is presumably still on the hacked phone because the investigation shows a screenshot of it.

If the file had been deleted, he said the probe should have stated this or explained why it was not possible to retrieve it. “They’re not doing that. It shows poor quality of the investigation,” Suiche added.

Reports on Wednesday suggested that Saudi Arabia was involved in the phone of Bezos being hacked after he received a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi Embassy in the US denied the allegations, describing them as “absurd.” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called the accusations “purely conjecture” and “absolutely silly,” saying if there was real evidence the Kingdom looked forward to seeing it.

A Wall Street Journal report quoted forensics specialists as saying the FTI investigation’s claims that Saudi Arabia was behind any possible hacking of the phone “appeared to forgo investigatory steps.”

CNN reported that critics of the probe highlighted a “lack of sophistication” in it, quoting Sarah Edwards, an instructor at the SANS Institute, as saying: “It does seem like (FTI) gave it a good try, but it seems they’re just not as knowledgeable in the mobile forensics realm as they could have been.”

The New York Times said the probe tried to find links between the possible hacking of the phone and an article in the National Enquirer about the Amazon CEO’s extramarital affair with Lauren Sanchez, but any link remains “elusive.”

National Enquirer owner American Media said in a statement regarding the source of the leak on Sanchez’s involvement with Bezos: “The single source of our reporting has been well documented, in September 2018 Michael Sanchez began providing all materials and information to our reporters. Any suggestion that a third party was involved in or in any way influenced our reporting is false.”


Saudi envoy congratulates UN chief on second term

Updated 19 June 2021

Saudi envoy congratulates UN chief on second term

NEW YORK: Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, congratulated UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on securing a second term.

Al-Mouallimi expressed the aspiration of the Saudi mission to continue working with the secretary-general in promoting peace and security around the world as well as ensuring the achievement of sustainable development goals.

Meanwhile, Al-Mouallimi chaired the virtual meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Contact Group with the UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.

The meeting tackled the latest political developments in Myanmar and the humanitarian situation of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Arifi, deputy director general at Saudi Arabia’s Institute of Public Administration

Updated 19 June 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Arifi, deputy director general at Saudi Arabia’s Institute of Public Administration

Abdulrahman Al-Arifi is deputy director general for research and consultation at the Institute of Public Administration (IPA).

In 2001, he received a master’s degree in computer science from the University of New Orleans, US. In 2012, he obtained a Ph.D. in information systems from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia. His doctoral thesis was nominated for the QUT outstanding doctoral thesis award in 2015.

Al-Arifi joined IPA as a faculty member in 1996. Some of his main responsibilities are to oversee, evaluate and innovate IPA research and consultancy services that are provided to the public and private sectors.

He is chair of the scientific council and the supervisor general of the editorial board of the Public Administration Journal, which oversees IPA’s academic activities. He has also served as both member and consultant in many government committees.

Before his appointment, Al-Arifi served as IT director general, where he was responsible for overseeing and monitoring the execution of projects in the four departments of applications, operations, customer services and information security.

Through his research activities, he leads and assists in the production of authentic and in-depth studies that analyze and address administrative issues. He also supervises consultation activities and assists in providing professional consultations based on modern scientific methodologies.

Al-Arifi, a certified ITIL V3, has won several awards for his research. In 2015, he was recognized by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Australia for his academic performance.


Saudi Hajj ministry warns against using fake registration links

Updated 19 June 2021

Saudi Hajj ministry warns against using fake registration links

  • More than 500,000 people have applied to perform the Hajj this year so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has warned citizens and residents against dealing with bogus Hajj companies that are not listed on the online portal for pilgrims.
The ministry also urged all citizens and residents to be wary of unlicensed adverts on social media that do not have official endorsement.
It advised people to report any agency, company or link claiming to provide permits or services to pilgrims for Hajj 2021 outside the framework of the portal.
Deputy Hajj minister Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat said that pilgrims should only book the services of Hajj companies and institutions through the authorized online registration portal for pilgrims.
More than 500,000 people have applied to perform the Hajj this year so far.

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Saudi Arabia's air defenses destroy 17 Houthi drones targeting the Kingdom from Yemen

Updated 36 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's air defenses destroy 17 Houthi drones targeting the Kingdom from Yemen

  • Iran-backed Houthi militia have consistently launched attacks against the Kingdom
  • The militia once again face international condemnation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed 17 Houthi drones launched toward the Kingdom’s southern region on Saturday.
A booby-trapped drone targeted Khamis Mushait early morning before seven more targeting the southern region were intercepted in Yemeni airspace during the afternoon.
Khamis Mushait was again targeted by two drones in the evening.

Another drone targeted Najran late evening before six more were shot down near midnight.
The Houthi militia’s deliberate and systematic escalation against Yemenis constitutes a war crime, the coalition said, adding that it was taking measures to protect civilians from hostile attacks.
The Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking the Kingdom with explosives-laden drones on an almost daily basis in recent weeks despite US, UN and Saudi calls for a ceasefire in Yemen.

They again faced international condemnation on Saturday for the latest round of attacks.

Kuwait said it supported all the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability. Bahrain praised the vigilance of the coalition forces to intercept and destroy the drones.

The UAE condemned the militia for "systematically targeting civilians," while Jordan said any threat to the security of Saudi Arabia was a threat to the entire region.

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Saudi Arabia announces 13 more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 19 June 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 13 more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 454,404
  • A total of 7,663 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 13 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,153 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 335 were recorded in Makkah, 266 in Riyadh, 148 in the Eastern Province, 119 in Asir, 84 in Jazan, 63 in Madinah, 27 in Najran, 23 in Tabuk, 17 in Hail, 12 in Al-Baha, 10 in the Northern Borders region, and four in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 454,404 after 1,145 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 7,663 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 16.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.