In an internal memo to employees, Apple threatened severe consequences for leaking confidential company information – reminding staff that those who leak can lose their jobs, have difficult finding future employment, and even get arrested. Last year, Apple claimed to have busted 29 leakers, 12 of whom were arrested. The memo itself was leaked, and its content was published by Bloomberg this afternoon. Apple has always cultivated a culture of confidentially about its work, as a means of maintaining a competitive advantage over the competition. Given how large Apple has grown over the years – the memo says there are 135,000 people working there – its become more difficult to keep things under wraps. By the time a new iPhone launches, for example, people already know what to expect. That can give rivals a head start on catching up with Apple, ahead of an actual public unveiling of the device. Leaks can also impact sales of current devices, as consumers hold off on buying as they know something better is soon to arrive. Apple more recently has had problems with leaked iOS source code, as well as leaked details about the iPhone 8 and X, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple TV 4K, HomePod, and more. And that was just in 2017. The new memo is not the first time Apple has tried to plug its leaks. Last year, the company held a meeting with employees where it discussed how it plans to prevent leaks, talked about how leakers were caught, and answered employees questions. That meeting was secretly recorded and leaked to the press too. In reality, some leaks can be harder to track or stop. A company-wide meeting or email, for instance, could be leaked by anyone. The new memo begins by informing Apple employees that the person who leaked details about Apples software roadmap earlier this year was caught and fired last month: Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apples 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 wouldnt be discovered. But people who leak — whether theyre Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and theyre getting caught faster than ever. The memo then goes on to stress how damaging leaks are to the company itself, those who worked on a project, and other employees. It reminds employees that when theyre approached by press, analysts and bloggers theyre getting played. The establishment of a very us-versus-them culture when dealing with outsiders is notable because it means Apple employees may fear becoming whistleblowers. Employees will likely also fear leaking to correct inaccurate information being passed around publicly. Today, there are reports that Apples own comms teams wont respond to, when asked by press – unless the report reaches a critical mass, or worse – is unflattering to Apple. But unlike at other companies where a PM or staffer may reach out to privately correctly a detail or give background outside of official channels, Apple staff would be fired for crossing that line. The memo also points to more examples of how Apples internal security has caught people who believed they could get away with it – including the person who leaked the link to the gold master of iOS 11, and those who leaked within the supply chain. It concludes by sharing the news that 12 of the leakers in 2017 were arrested. Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes, the memo read. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. Theres a certain kind of person who will find language like this a challenge. But the majority will likely take heed. The memo was published as an internal company blog post. The full memo can be read on Bloombergs site.
Apple warns leakers that theyre getting caught faster than ever. On Friday, Bloomberg News published what it described as an "internal blog" post in full. The memo warned that Apple "employees, contractors, or suppliers—do get caught, and theyre getting caught faster than ever." The post also reportedly noted that, "in some cases," leakers "face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes," adding that, in 2017, "Apple caught 29 leakers, and of those, 12 were arrested. " It is not clear what precise charges those arrested face. Leaks are nothing new for Apple or any other Silicon Valley firm, but they have been particularly abundant at Apple of late. As recently as February 2018, Apple's iBoot code was posted to GitHub. Last September, iPhone X specs were also leaked. In June 2012, an AT&T executive admitted to leaking Apple-related information to investors. Many leaks, like news about Apple working on its own processors and developing a way to make macOS and iOS software interoperable, have appeared in Bloomberg, which published this leak as well. "You've got thousands of people working on manufacturing something who have no vested interest in keeping it secret," one employee said, adding that he believes leaks will continue to increase as Apple ramps up overseas manufacturing operations. "It will be increasingly hard to hide the industrial design we do because we manufacture things overseas. Since we don't do it in the US, it may be hard to surprise people over anything in the future." Way back in 2006, Ars reported on a California state appellate court decision that found in favor of Apple-leaking sites—the company could not force them to reveal their sources, citing Californias journalist shield law. Apple did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment. The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment either. "I have reached out to our high-tech crimes unit for additional information, and I will be happy to relay that to you upon receipt," Terry Lynn Harman, an assistant district attorney in Santa Clara County (where Apple is based), emailed Ars.