In Leaked Memo, Apple Warns Employees Face Jail Time For Leaking Memos

In what's both a hilarious irony and a powerful display of contempt by employees of one of Silicon Valley's most secretive companies, Bloomberg published an internal Apple memo on Friday afternoon warning the company's employees not to leak inside information to reporters. If they do, they could face stiff penalties including being fired or even arrested for stealing trade secrets.

As the memo reveals, Apple is resorting to increasingly sophisticated techniques to catch leaks, including hiring outside digital forensics firms to examine employees' communications both inside and outside Apple's campus.

But perhaps the memo's most shocking revelation is the fact that Apple caught 29 employees leaking to the press last year - and of those, 12 were arrested. What's worse, the memo included an implicit threat that, once caught leaking by Apple, employees would find it "very difficult" to secure another job, potentially destroying their livelihood in the process.

The memo also cited examples of leakers who were busted by the company, including an employee who had leaked details of an internal meeting where Craig Federighi, one of Apple's most senior engineers, told employees that certain software features in iOS would be postponed.

Last year, an employee was fired for leaking details about the iPhone X, iPad Pro, and AirPods to 9to5Mac - a blogger who had distinguished himself by reporting a series of top-level scoops related to Apple products while he was still in high school.

Apple

As Bloomberg explains, the crackdown is part of a broader effort among elite Silicon Valley firms to keep information away from the press's prying eyes. Of course, the memo acknowledges how difficult this can be, considering the intense interest by investors, readers, publishers and reporters to dig up exclusives on one of the world's most influential - and most ubiquitous - companies. Back in 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to crack down on leakers, an initiative that clearly fizzled as key details about new Apple products have perennially leaked. And apparently many of these leaks weren't tacitly authorized by the company's communications department.

The problem, according to the memo, is that being approached by a reporter from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal can be an incredibly gratifying experience - especially for junior employees who are eager to satiate their egos.

But one employee quoted in the memo, Greg Joswiak, a senior marketing executive, cautioned that Apple workers should always be wary of the press - even of innocuous requests.

"It's important to remember that you're getting played," Joswiak warned.

Far from being a minor embarrassment, leaks can have a serious impact on the company. Not only can they tip Apple's hand to its competitors - informing their work on rival products - but they can also impact the sales of new products.

"We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else," says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing.

The leakers aren't solely insiders. Some have been found elsewhere in the supply chain, according to the memo.

Given that Silicon Valley has become a bastion of anti-Trump sentiment, this crackdown on leakers bears the unmistakable whiff of hypocrisy: While executives have criticized President Trump for his fixation on silencing leakers, they've been quietly hunting down and destroying the leakers within their own organizations - often more efficiently than the White House ever has.

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Read the memo in full below:

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.

In many cases, leakers don’t set out to leak. Instead, people who work for Apple are often targeted by press, analysts and bloggers who befriend them on professional and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and begin to pry for information. While it may seem flattering to be approached, it’s important to remember that you’re getting played. The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public.

A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose. The impact of a leak goes far beyond the people who work on a project. Leaking Apple’s work undermines everyone at Apple and the years they’ve invested in creating Apple products. “Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release,” says UIKit lead Josh Shaffer, whose team’s work was part of the iOS 11 leak last fall. “Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us.” The impact of a leak goes beyond the people who work on a particular project — it’s felt throughout the company. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model; give rival companies more time to begin on a competitive response; and lead to fewer sales of that new product when it arrives.

“We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing. Investments by Apple have had an enormous impact on the company’s ability to identify and catch leakers. 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.

Leakers in the supply chain are getting caught, too. Global Security has worked hand-in-hand with suppliers to prevent theft of Apple’s intellectual property as well as to identify individuals who try to exceed their access. They’ve also partnered with suppliers to identify vulnerabilities — both physical and technological — and ensure their security levels meet or exceed Apple’s expectations. These programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place. 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. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

While they carry serious consequences, leaks are completely avoidable. They are the result of a decision by someone who may not have considered the impact of their actions. “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,” says Joswiak. “The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking.”

Comments

bh2 ACP Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:45 Permalink

Actually, yes. Sharing a "trade secret" is actually a violation of federal law and can be prosecuted in federal courts. This is entirely different to theft of "patent rights", which the holder of the rights must defend in civil court.

Leaking state secrets, of course, is a privilege of the unelected bureaucracy who are members of the DC Mafia. "Made" men (and women). Not a problem for them.

In reply to by ACP

Endgame Napoleon bh2 Sat, 04/14/2018 - 10:41 Permalink

I can see why they need to protect the hard work of their 60,000 youthful employees in the USA, including the US citizens and foreign guest workers who get paid a lot to design the hardware and the retail / call center workers who get paid less than enough to cover rent, not to mention their 2 million offshored production workers in non-racially-diverse China. 

Upon being hired, they likely sign paperwork that requires confidentiality. What I do not understand is why employee leaks in the USA are a bigger problem than counterfeiting in China. Maybe, the two are linked, and rather than leaks to NY Times or WaPo reporters, they are worried about how information gets leaked to Chinese state-financed smartphone companies. 

In reply to by bh2

kiwidor SilverRhino Thu, 04/19/2018 - 19:47 Permalink

i upvoted you for the  idea of double analogue, but with today's resolutions,  artifacts, such as embedded serial numbers, etc, can remain in the digitized image. 

likewise with any digitizing equipment.  so you may end up with two audit trails.

and the other person becomes an accessory. 

if you are being spoofed by your own company, that CC list may be false, and the timestamp may be unique.

BCC's are another problem. 

 

However, most are interested in the content, not the transaction details, which SHOULD BE WITHHELD

 

transcribe the content with a borrowed typewriter.  do not reveal the send date or time.  build in some deliberate errors.  get someone else to re-transcribe and send to intended recipient using tails image and one-time email address at an internet cafe or using dark web, routed to normal web.

 

there.  fixed it.

 

 

 

In reply to by SilverRhino

weliveinamatrix Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:08 Permalink

I live off grid and wish I could tell all the field mice to STFU and stay out of my living space :-)   On another note, this is coast, been here a long time but get kicked off now and then it seems. Its ok, while waiting for approval to start posting again, I wrote some music...If you dont mind, gonna share it k?  I really like my doggie, she has been a good friend...anyway, here is the song, hope you dont mind and enjoy...this song is for legalization of marijuana...:-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao_qdtpNamU

navy62802 Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:11 Permalink

Meanwhile, government employees can leak classified information with impunity. And they say we live in a free country. LOL!!!!! all the way to the mother fucking bank!

Endgame Napoleon VWAndy Sat, 04/14/2018 - 10:51 Permalink

In America, you cannot ever be confident that your employment will last through your lease agreement unless you do not put in the effort to meet the quotas every month. You are not guaranteed even a minimum of job longevity unless you are a frequently absentee, back-watching, “culture-fit” employee or manager in one of the many 98% mom-gang workplaces “voted best for moms.” It is an ‘upside-down’ world. 

In reply to by VWAndy

tripletail Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:16 Permalink

Apple's totalitarian actions may not wake up the ignorant masses, but it's been waking up geeks for a few years now --- encouraging them to move back to Linux laptops and the like. In other words, Apple has been losing geeks of all kinds for at least a few years. And the trend is picking up. Remember Steve Balmer of MS --- and the we need developers rant? Android, a crap platform, dominates 80%+ of the mobile space, while Apple mobile share has fallen to 12%-. No doubt, we all miss Steve Jobs!

PrivetHedge pitz Sat, 04/14/2018 - 07:46 Permalink

Perhaps, but the simple fact is that his presence at Apple coincides exactly with them making stuff people wanted to buy.

Now he's gone they make what - crap square digital watches? Whoopee. At least you didn't have to charge up the 1970s crap square digital watches everyday.

In reply to by pitz

bmore Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:18 Permalink

finding a technology that harms, maims, or could possibly kill a human or even breaks the law,
gives a person or employee the legal right to release to press, the crimes or treasonous activities of any company/corporation located within the USA. Failure to notify of the crimes may find said employee or persons in complicity of those crimes by accessory.

107cicero Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:20 Permalink

If you leak at Apple, 'jail time', if you leak at the White House, FBI, well that's business.

That's what is wrong with government, big corp.; it s called Fascism whether by the farmer or the pigs....

21st.century Fri, 04/13/2018 - 20:49 Permalink

You should see what's in store for any, contemplating Apple whistle-blowers?-- 

the warnings may extend to your families.

Apple seems to have hardened - with the decades long exposure to Chinese-style freedom. 

China has a new Emperor for life--- Apple cracking down on "leakers"

the "leaking" memo was "leaked" ... a bold move of defiance  

 

 

Endgame Napoleon 21st.century Sat, 04/14/2018 - 11:04 Permalink

Among high-end buyers, the market for value-added products, where the value is high-grade encryption that applies to everything done on the internet, might give the competitive edge. It would be good if an American-owned company that makes products here in the USA, employing US citizens and not guest workers, provided that type of alternative in a stylish wrapper if possible.

In reply to by 21st.century

kiwidor Endgame Napoleon Thu, 04/19/2018 - 20:03 Permalink

actually any country will do.  your major problem is chip manufacture. 

so, form company for your encryptofone.

hire only citizens of said country, and make sure there are outliers who will kvetch and shout and punch someone in the head if someone does stupid.  no ((()))

make sure everyone knows that compromise will result in accidents

pay extraordinarily well

don't stress them out.  if you get 5 hours of productive time per day you are doing better than most organisations globally

only promote non-average non-culture-fit staff (more on that in another post)

have your own chip manufacture facility

multi-outsource testing with big rewards for finding issues

demote upon failure (or fire immediately if catastrophic failure)

keep project teams below 15 members.

every staff member has to be ancestry checked , and subsequently tested in situ viz confidentiality and so on.

 

this won't prevent carriers from de-performancing your gear if it id's as 'secure'.  so build in chipset spoofing.  given that you won't be sucking performance on tracking bullshit, you can compensate even with carrier-level performance degradation.

only sell in suitable cultures/countries and make sure the purchaser eats a bacon sandwich before there is a sale.

 

 

In reply to by Endgame Napoleon