A fascinating report from The Outline shares highlights from an internal presentation about Apple’s efforts to increase product secrecy; a leak of an internal meeting about leaks. The briefing apparently described how Apple security teams prevent information from ‘leaking to competitors, counterfeiters and press.’
One of the most interesting tidbits is that Apple believes there are now more leaks coming from its employees on campus than the supply chain. In 2016, Apple reportedly leaked 4 housings out of 65 million produced in factories …
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The briefing was headed by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubert from the Global Security team. The Outline says that many of the investigators assigned to counter leaks have backgrounds in the NSA, FBI, the Secret Service, and the military.
According to the report, the presentation included videos from Apple employees saying that leaks ‘make me sick to my stomach’ and that ‘when you leak this information, you’re letting all of us down’.
Greg Joswiak, Apple marketing VP, was also featured saying that ‘this has become a big deal for Tim’ and ‘we can’t tolerate this any longer’.
Hubbert said that the New Product Security team focuses on supply chain leaks. Whilst from the outside it seems that most leaks these days come from supply chain sources, David Rice is quoted as saying that this is no longer the case.
However, Rice says, Apple has cracked down on leaks from its factories so successfully that more breaches are now happening on Apple’s campuses in California than its factories abroad. “Last year was the first year that Apple [campuses] leaked more than the supply chain,” Rice tells the room. “More stuff came out of Apple [campuses] last year than all of our supply chain combined.”
Describing the job as trench warfare, Rice said that black market sellers post signs at bus stops and factory dormitories offering to pay for as-yet-unannounced Apple parts and components. In some cases, the financial rewards can equate to up to a year’s salary for the Chinese labour.
Focusing on enclosures specifically, which Rice describes as the ultimate prize (“if you have a housing, you pretty much know what we’re going to ship”), the presentation reportedly included hard numbers on Apple’s crackdown. In 2014, Apple recorded 387 stolen enclosures, dropping to 57 in 2015, and just four in 2016.
In some cases, Apple itself buys leaked components to prevent details from reaching external sources. In 2013, Apple apparently purchased 19,000 iPhone 5c enclosures ahead of its announcement in 2013.
The second major pillar of the presentation focused not on supply chain, but on Apple campus employees. Rice is quoted as saying that now that the supply chain impact has been dramatically cut, reducing leaks from its campus has become a priority (“Oh crap. We have a problem here.”).
Apple said that one investigation into a leaker on Apple campus took three years. In the previous year, two ‘major leakers were caught’ one from the Apple online store and one who worked on iTunes for ‘about six years.’ Rice apparently clarified that Apple’s secretive policies does not extend to company administrative matters. Employees are (rightfully) allowed to talk about salary, ‘how crappy their boss is’ and go to law enforcement if the company is doing something illegal.
Rice says that his role at New Product Security originated because of the historic iPhone 4 prototype leak back in 2010, when an employee left/lost the device at a bar for it to be sold on to Gizmodo a few weeks later. Read the full report on The Outline’s website.