As reports elaborate on details of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing in Turkey, the Apple Watch keeps getting brought up, despite the odds being against it having been used as the recorder. Manipulation of the contentious reports has spread, even involving a previous report by AppleInsider being altered and hosted elsewhere intended to influence social media, and Google search results.
New reports on Wednesday morning keep mentioning the Apple Watch as the source of data for Khashoggi's reported questioning by a "hit squad" when he visited the embassy to get paperwork. A copy of the audio file was reportedly synced with Khashoggi's iPhone, which was in the possession of fiancee Hatice Cengiz. Cengiz was waiting outside the consulate during the exchange, assumedly within Bluetooth range of the Apple Watch in question.
The reports still do not specify what app Khashoggi used, how the audio was transferred to his iPhone, or how it made its way to iCloud. Khashoggi has been spotted in previous pictures with the tell-tale red dot signifying a LTE Series 3 Apple Watch on his wrist.
Following the encounter, continuing reports claim that the Saudis responsible gained access to the Apple Watch and deleted certain files on the device. This suggests the so-called "hit squad" confiscated the journalist's iPhone from Cengiz, something that has gone unconfirmed.
While Saudis were able to wipe certain files from Khashoggi's device or devices, they were less successful in deleting data from iCloud, the report says.
Even if the Apple Watch recorded the slaughter, as reported on Friday, it isn't clear from a technological standpoint how this data would be exfiltrated from the embassy, even if Cengiz was in Bluetooth range.
Apple Watch connectivity to the outside world
It shouldn't surprise anybody embassies are highly secure facilities, that governments take great efforts to protect, and host governments try valiantly to listen in on. Modern connectivity like Bluetooth, LTE, and Wi-Fi have made this dance a bit more complex in the last two decades.
Obviously, RF emissions control is a big concern for embassy security staff, and a big avenue of exploitation by agencies wanting to listen in. To this end, embassies are heavily shielded against radio frequency emissions, both coming in or exiting the facility.
The Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 LTE radios do not function in Turkey, at all. So, that eliminates the longest-range way that data could have been handed off to iCloud. Bluetooth is very low energy, and has nearly no penetrative power to overcome intentional RF shielding.
And, if Khashoggi was allowed to connect to the consulate Wi-Fi, that would be one of the largest breaches of embassy RF and data security ever recorded. This seems especially improbable.
As a result, The likelihood of the data getting passed off to the iPhone is also profoundly small.
Given the "leaks" of the audio that have happened over the last 24 hours and were previously teased, odds are the reports that the audio came from the Apple Watch is either a disinformation campaign of some sort, or the government of Turkey is using the report to cover up a surveillance effort inside the embassy that has gone heretofore undiscovered.
AppleInsider's reporting, and Google manipulation
At some point on Monday, a domain resembling AppleInsider's was purchased, and registered in Panama. The "Appleinsider.org" domain mostly redirects to our own, at AppleInsider.com. However, one story where we talked about the rumors surrounding the murder and the Apple Watch does not.
On Tuesday, a rework of editor Mikey Campbell's story regarding the matter emerged on the bogus domain, which alleged that Apple CEO Tim Cook had spoken to us, and for some reason used broken English to comment on the matter.
For the astute, like most AppleInsider readers, the language used by the perpetrators or the domain difference would have been a dead giveaway. For the less aware, as evidenced by our social media feeds, the faked quotes by Apple's CEO could be taken as authentic.
Cook has not spoken about the Apple Watch as it relates to the killing at all. Nor, has he spoken to AppleInsider about it.
There is no reason that the assailants would want to impugn AppleInsider. The more likely explanation is that parties unknown wanted to manipulate Google search results, and take partial advantage of our own Google rankings to do so.
AppleInsider has taken counter-measures since we were made aware of the incident.