The Saudi ruler is already at the centre of a major diplomatic controversy, after being suspected of hacking the phone of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. The UN has issued a call for an investigation over allegations that the future Saudi king used his WhatsApp account to deliver spyware to Mr Bezos’ mobile phone. The British Prime Minister is known to have swapped numbers with the Bin Salman when he was the Foreign Secretary.
Ever since he has been in regular contact with the Saudi prince through WhatsApp, according to the Mail On Sunday.
To the bafflement of Mr Johnson and his team, the Saudi ruler accompanies his texts with an endless series of emojis.
This in turn has led to concerns that Bin Salman is trying to hack the Prime Minister’s phone.
Security sources revealed that they were worried about the level of contact between the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince.
Boris Johnson and Mohammed bin Salman
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They said that the current relations with Saudia Arabia are being “tested severely” by the odd behaviour of Bin Salman.
Downing Street refused to say whether Mr Johnson had received any videos and pictures from Bin Salman through the app.
Opening such files would allow a hacker to gain access to the data, photograph and contacts, according to cyber-crime experts.
Brian Lord, former deputy director for cyber operations at GCHQ, said: “An emoji on its own is not big enough to contain a virus, it has to be something that has to be opened.
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“It has to be something that the user clicks on, like a video or a picture or sound file which contains a virus or malware that can then run in the background of the device.”
He added: “The malware is a bit like opening a back door and once that door is open the hacker can keep going in and out again remotely.
“It would be like a burglar having your house keys and sneaking in and out of your house stealing from you without you knowing.”
Last week The Guardian reported Mr Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message from Mohammed bin Salman in 2018.
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The encrypted message is believed to have contained a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of Amazon’s CEO.
Large amounts of data were then extracted from Mr Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a source close to the investigation.
The revelation is likely to prompt questions about whether the Crown Prince had a role in leaking details of the Amazon’s founder private life to a US tabloid.
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Nine months after the alleged hack, the National Enquirer published intimate details about Mr Bezos’s private life, including text messages.
The incident occurred also just months before the brutal murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critical articles about the Saudi regime for the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
Experts believe that Mr Bezos was targeted as part of a campaign to pressure him into silencing Mr Khashoggi.
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Andrew Miller, a Middle East expert who served on the national security council under President Obama, told The Guardian: “He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post.
“It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they are prepared to do in order to protect and advance Mohammed bin Salman, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is on their own.”
The Saudi kingdom has strenuously denied that Bin Salman was involved in hacking Mr Bezos, with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud saying the allegations were “absurd”.