Apple has warned its employees about the dangers of leaking confidential information to the media, advising in a leaked internal memo that the company is still fighting to sniff out leakers, in its ongoing attempts to protect details about future products from being made public ahead of schedule.
Posted to its internal blog, the memo reveals Apple had "caught 29 leakers" last year, adding that 12 of the former employees were also arrested for their actions. "These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere," the memo states, highlighting the potential consequences of leaking.
Highlighting a case from last month where the company caught and fired an employee who leaked details from an internal and confidential meeting relating to the firm's software roadmap, the memo published by Bloomberg notes the employee admitted to Apple investigators he did it because he thought he would not be found out. Apple boasts that this is not the case, as its efforts to plug leaks has led to employees, contractors, and suppliers who do these actions being caught "faster than ever."
Apple has invested in its internal investigations to identify and catch leaks as early as possible. The memo cites a gold master leak of iOS 11 head of last September's event, which included details relating to the unannounced iPhone X and unreleased operating system, with the employee responsible identified and fired within days.
The digital forensics of Global Security, used by Apple for its investigations, also discovered the identities of several employees feeding confidential data about the iPhone X, iPad Pro, and AirPods to a blogger at one Apple-focused online publication. Global Security is also credited as working with suppliers to "prevent theft of Apple's intellectual property" as well as leakers, improving security with the third-party firms to "meet or exceed Apple's expectations."
The repercussions of being found to leak expend far more than the loss of a job, Apple claims, noting the jail time and "massive fines," typically stemming from federal charges relating to network intrusions and trade secret theft. "The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real," Tom Moyer of Global Security advises, noting such discoveries "can become part of your personal and professional identity forever."
The memo also calls for employees to respect each other's work, and Apple's investment into its products, in not leaking to the press. "Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release," states Josh Shaffer, leader of the UIKit team that worked on some of the items that formed part of the iOS 11 leak. "Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us."
"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," Greg Joswaik of Product Marketing says to end the memo. "The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking."
Apple is known as one of the most secretive companies in the world, and has been the subject of many rumors and leaks, both real and made up, about its products. In May 2012, CEO Tim Cook advised the company was going to "double down" on its product security and secrecy.
In October the same year, a report into Apple's security practices found them to have become stronger and stricter than during founder Steve Jobs' tenure leading the company. Efforts ranged from off-campus real-life testing of new hardware being limited to just a handful of employees, to other practices that reportedly clamped down more on what its employees were able to do, with some unnamed engineers complaining about the extreme confidentiality at the company.