Money & Power

How Exactly Did The National Enquirer Get Those Private Jeff Bezos Texts?

A security expert for high-profile clients explains.
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Amazon boss Jeff Bezos penned a lengthy Medium blog post on Thursday claiming the National Enquirer attempted to blackmail him into ceasing his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private text messages with his new girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.

The messages—which the Enquirer called “sleazy text messages and gushing love notes”—were published just hours after Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, revealed they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage.

It raised questions about how the tabloid got the private material in the first place, although American Media Inc., which owns the Enquirer, maintains it "acted lawfully" in the reporting of the story, according to a statement. 

Bezos writes on Medium that he retained 64-year-old security advisor to the stars Gavin de Becker, "one of the smartest and most capable leaders" he knows, to lead an investigation into the matter and "determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer." He did not, in his post, mention taking any legal action against the perpetrator.

According to a January report in The Daily Beast, de Becker's probe has found it was likely a leak, not a hack, and "strong leads point to political motives.” He even confirmed they were looking into Lauren Sanchez's brother, Michael Sanchez, a Trump supporter with ties to Roger Stone.

We spoke with a security expert to better understand how someone could have gotten hold of the intimate messages—and why the Bezos camp isn't pursuing any legal action against them. Our expert has requested anonymity due to the many high-profile clients they work with.

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Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos

IS IT POSSIBLE SOMEONE HACKED INTO JEFF BEZOS' MESSAGES AND LEAKED THEM?

"I just don’t see it. They are very squared away at Amazon. They have a forward thinking security department. [Bezos] is already a huge target for hackers. The Chinese would love nothing more than to penetrate his systems to read his emails, and they’ve invested a lot in both his physical protection and IT protection. AWS [Amazon Web Services] is their most valuable product, and AWS depends entirely on being a secure platform. I suspect they invest a great deal in their IT security posture. If it were easy to hack into his emails, I think someone else would have done it for a far more nefarious purpose."


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Lauren Sanchez

THE LEAKER WAS LIKELY SOMEONE SANCHEZ SHARED HER DEVICE, OR PASSWORD, WITH.

"[Did] Lauren do this herself as a way of accelerating the end of his marriage and as a way of cementing her relationship with him? That’s the first thing you have to rule out. Then you have to conduct an investigation that, if it’s not she, who is it that she granted access to. So, that means depending on her platform are there other people who she shares devices with? Does she share an apple ID with someone? Does she use a laptop computer that is connected to her apple ID that other people have access to? If it’s not a hack, then it’s some type of permitted access. It could be that she granted access to someone and had forgotten about it. It could be that she thought she had granted limited rights to someone but they were general rights, those are all options."

THE COUPLE IS NOT PURSUING LEGAL ACTION. THAT COULD INDICATE A FEW THINGS.

"There may be no crime here, if she had given this information to her brother—or anybody—voluntarily. This is the most likely way this happened. The number one way in which passwords, for example, are compromised, it’s not some kind of brute force attack, it’s someone calling up and basically tricking you out of it. It’s social engineering—that’s the leading way in which passwords are compromised. It’s not likely this is the work of a really sophisticated hacking regime. I think some of the people who [claim not to] know how this happened, actually know the answer. I don’t necessarily believe that Mr. Bezos or Laura don’t know how this occurred.

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Remember the case where all those people’s personal naked pictures were posted online? That case occurred because someone set up a sting ray or some other device near one of the award shows, captured all of these phone access points, hacked them then, and sent that out. That guy [Ryan Collins] was locked up. So, when you do this, there's a good chance you will get locked up.

The FBI has resources that no private investigator, particularly not Gavin de Becker, who’s well known as a security person not an investigator person, has. Certainly, Gavin doesn’t have these resources and if you really wanted to find [the hacker], you would have the FBI do it."

WHY WOULD BEZOS RETAIN GAVIN DE BECKER THEN?

"Maybe they had to make a public presentation. Maybe they're saying, 'Alright, listen, this happened. [Jeff has] never dated anyone like this before. We have to go and conduct an investigation and run around and try to find it.'

If you look at de Becker's business, it's entirely Hollywood, it’s not technology. His business is primarily providing bodyguards and estate security to celebrities. His business is not known for conducting big forensic investigations. My theory is because de Becker's primary area of clientele is Hollywood, not tech, is that [Lauren] hired him. That makes a lot of sense because she would know de Becker via her husband [Patrick Whitesell, a family friend and Hollywood agent who is said to work with Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Kevin Costner, and Hugh Jackman]."

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HOW CAN CLIENTS AVOID A SITUATION LIKE THIS?

"Don't send stuff! That [advice] usually doesn't work. You can use apps that allow content to disappear, like Snapchat. Although, those can be screenshotted. Signal is an encrypted messaging app and so is WhatsApp."

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Rose Minutaglio
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