15
Apr
2018

Internal memo reveals how Apple is sniffing out leakers

A memo posted to Apple’s internal blog reveals it last year sniffed out 29 leakers who lost their job while a dozen former employees were also arrested for passing confidential information to the media.

Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain.

The memo issues the strongest warning yet to employees to stop leaking internal information on future products to the press. “These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere,” reads the document published by Bloomberg.

Confidential information is being leaked to the press all the time, but Tim Cook wowed back in 2012 to double-down on secrecy. And while Apple has since managed to tighten security at the facilities run by its suppliers (Exhibit A: fewer and fewer parts leaking out of Asian factories), private information on its future plans and software is being discovered and publicized more than ever before.

The company cited the infamous firmware leak last year which revealed details about the then unreleased iPhone X and Apple Watch models.

Just before last September’s special event, an employee leaked a link to the gold master of iOS 11 to the press, again believing he wouldn’t be caught. The unreleased OS detailed soon-to-be-announced software and hardware including iPhone X.

Within days, the leaker was identified through an internal investigation and fired. Global Security’s digital forensics also helped catch several employees who were feeding confidential details about new products including iPhone X, iPad Pro and AirPods to a blogger at 9to5Mac.

That unnamed 9to5Mac blogger mentioned in the report is Mark Gurman, now a reporter for Bloomberg who wrote this report. The memo outlined another meeting where software engineering head Craig Federighi told employees that some planned iOS 12 software features would be delayed.

Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apple’s software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust.

The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak—whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers—do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever.

The person who leaked this story to Gurman was caught and fired.

“Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release,” said Josh Shaffer, leader of the UIKit team. “Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us.”

Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of current models, give rivals more time to begin on a competitive response and lead to fewer sales when the new product launches, according to the memo.

“We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great and not have that done poorly by someone else,” reads the document.

The company is ramping up effort to stop leaks with legal action.

Tom Moyer, Apple’s Global Security head, warned those who would leak product secrets that they could face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets, both of which are classified as federal crimes.

“The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” he said. He further underscored that leakers are running the risk of potential legal action and criminal charges by warning that this becomes part of their personal and professional identity forever.

“Everyone comes to Apple to do the best work of their lives—work that matters and contributes to what all 135,000 people in this company are doing together,” Apple’s Product Marketing lead Greg Joswaik wrote at the end the memo. “The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking.”

Check out the entire memo via Bloomberg.

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