Recently, more tidbits about forthcoming Apple products have been coming from its offices in Cupertino, California, than from the company’s vast supply chain in Asia.

That’s according to Outline’s William Turton, who has watched a video of an hour-long briefing held by former NSA investigators in order to educate about 100 top Apple employees on how confidential information gets leaked out to the press.

Titled “Stopping Leakers—Keeping Confidential at Apple,” the presentation was led by Apple’s Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman and Jenny Hubbert, who works on Apple’s Global Security communications and training team.

The presentation educated employees on the ways to “prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters and the press.” Apple’s Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world, with some members embedded on certain Apple product teams to help employees keep secrets.

“When I see a leak in the press, for me, it’s gut-wrenching,” one Apple employee said. “It really makes me sick to my stomach.” Another employee said that when an Apple employee does leak confidential information, they’re “letting all of us down.”

“It’s our company, the reputation of the company, the hard work of the different teams that work on this stuff,” said the employee. Tim Cook publicly promised in 2012 that Apple would double-down on secrecy. So, how has that worked out?

According to Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iOS product marketing:

This has become a big deal for Tim. Matter of fact, it should be important to literally everybody at Apple that we can’t tolerate this any longer. I have faith deep in my soul that if we hire smart people they’re gonna think about this, they’re gonna understand this, and ultimately they’re gonna do the right thing and that’s to keep their mouth shut.

Apple is actively going after leakers who would spoil its “One More Thing” surprises.

According to Jenny Hubbert:

So you heard Tim say, ‘We have one more thing.’ So what is that one more thing? Surprise and delight. Surprise and delight when we announce a product to the world that hasn’t leaked. It’s incredibly impactful, in a really positive way. It’s our DNA. It’s our brand. But when leaks get out, that’s even more impactful. It’s a direct hit to all of us.

In recent months, Apple clamped down on supply chain leaks, so much so that more confidential information now gets leaked out from 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 told the gathered employees. “More stuff came out of Apple campuses last year than all of our supply chain combined.”

This is a notable achievement given that Apple’s contract manufacturers employ up to three million people when the company ramps up production, and all of these people need to be checked every time they enter and exit the factory.

The iPhone maker has been “busting its ass” to prevent supply chain leaks, with Rice describing the efforts as “trench warfare non-stop,” especially with “very talented adversaries” and black market sellers offering “top dollar” for Apple parts.

A product’s housing is the most sough-after part. “If you have a housing, you pretty much know what we’re going to ship,” Rice says, adding that the stolen parts often end up in Huaqiangbei, one of the biggest electronics markets in the world, located in Shenzhen, Southern China.

“There’s a whole slew of folks that can be tempted because what happens if I offer you, say, three months’ salary?’ In some cases we’ve seen up to a year’s worth of salary being rewarded for stealing product out of the factory,” said Rice.

2013 was a particularly painful year for Apple as the company had to buy back about 19,000 stolen enclosures before the iPhone 5c announcement and then an additional 11,000 before the phones were shipped to customers. “So we’re buying as fast as we possibly can to try to keep it out of every blog on Earth,” Rice said.

Here’s how many Apple enclosures were stolen since 2013:

  • 2014—387 enclosures stolen
  • 2015—57 enclosures stolen, 50 of which were lifted on the announcement night
  • 2016—4 enclosures stolen

A few years ago, Apple began removing traces of unreleased products from iOS builds.

Its renewed focus on preventing leaks is on full display with virtually no iPhone 8 component leaks as of yet, unlike in years past when new iPhone parts would leak out of Asian factories for months in advance.

Not even Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, formerly with 9to5Mac, could obtain iPhone 8 parts. Rice “gleefully recounted” a blog post by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, in which he criticized Gurman for not having details on Apple’s new HomePod speaker before it was released.

Like many other manufacturers, Apple has long been using special cases to conceal iPhone prototypes during testing in the wild. Still, no security is perfect so leaks remain a fact of life. Security always comes down to the human factor, as we saw with the iPhone 4 leak.

For an in-depth overview of Apple’s commitment to corporate secrecy, I wholeheartedly recommend Adam Lashinksy’s book “Inside Apple”, available on iBooks Store for $14.99.

  • pnh

    if they get the leaks under control they may want to share how they did it with the FBI, DOJ and the White House because they don’t have a clue.

  • Agneev

    One More Thing? Apart from the Apple Watch & Apple Music, I don’t think Tim has done anything on that.
    They could’ve easily introduced the HomePod under One More Thing, but it seems Tim is more than eager to un-Steve Apple than to preserve the company as Steve left it. He fired Forstall too.
    I disagree with people saying that it’s time for Apple to move on from the Steve–era. Look what happened with iOS 7!
    I’d do anything to have iOS 6 on my 6s.

    • askep3

      Did he not say one more thing before announcing the HomePod? I’m actually wondering.

      • Iskren Donev

        Tim said “One last thing” rather than “One more thing”. The audience laughed at that.

      • Agneev

        No, he said that he has 6 things to discuss at the beginning of the keynote. Then when he got down to the last 1, he showed showed a slide of ❤️

    • Iskren Donev

      In my opinion it is difficult to stay in the Steve era without Steve simply because Steve was the sole decision-maker and now he is gone. As such, other people are left making the decisions which naturally means that they would not be exactly the same as the decisions Steve would have made.

      • Agneev

        But look at Tim, he has skipped out on One More Thing for 2 years in a row.

      • Iskren Donev

        I think this has more to do with Tim not trying to impersonate Steve. “One more thing” was Steve’s catchphrase and if Tim uses it, this will immediately draw comparisons between him and Steve.

      • Agneev

        He did use it twice, new cliché?

      • Iskren Donev

        Very likely, but at least it’s Tim’s and not Steve’s.

    • Aniket Bhatt

      I’m sure this dude is a troll…he just said he wants ios 6

      • Agneev

        I am not a troll. What’s wrong with iOS 6?

      • Blacklight: Retribution

        iOS 6 was cool.

      • :D

        iOS 10 is miles ahead of iOS 6

      • Aniket Bhatt

        You’re right I prefer windows 95

    • Jamessmooth

      Didn’t another company patent the “One More Thing?” I thought Tim did that with the speaker, but couldn’t actually say “One More Thing.”

    • Urname

      I don’t think Steve did a “One More Thing” every year. And the HomePod would not have been appropriate for that anyways, Steve did a “One More Thing” for things like the iPad’s Smart Cover. The HomePod is a much bigger product than that.

      You, my friend, are living in the reality distortion field.

    • AppetiteForDestruction

      You’re not alone, so don’t listen to these lame ass fanboys bro! iOS 6 was/is still the best looking version of iOS! iOS 7-10 looks like something a 10th grader would create for a school project. The color palette is hideous, and the overall look of the homescreen is unbalanced, cartoonish, confusing, and ugly! People only pretend to like the hideous look of iOS 7-10 because they have no choice! Hence the reason that the first thing people who jailbreak do is change their theme to something else. You can bet that if iOS had built in “themes” that the majority of people would prefer something else over the stock look. But like I said, they are stuck with what they get so they learn to like it.

      It’s already been proven year after year that crApple is on a downward spiral. Think back of when the iPhone 1-4 came out, there were huge lines of people waiting outside the crApple store, some even WEEKS before the device was going to be released! Don’t see that kinda thing going on anymore now a days. That’s because not that many people really care anymore. The only sheepeople who still get hyped up are the lame ass fanboys. The rest of us could care less about buying a “new device” that is 98% identical to the previous years model. I used to upgrade my device every year up until the iPhone 5. Now I stay at least two years behind because there is no point in getting a “newer” recycled device! Right now I’m still rocking a “Jailbroken” iPhone 6 on iOS 8.4 and I’ve got way more features at my disposal than any newer device running iOS 9-10. So why the hell would I want to go any higher?

      • David Jacobs

        How can you call them ‘crApple’ when they are the most successful tech company in the world?

      • jakeopp

        Being successful doesn’t mean he has to like them lol

      • Urname

        But being successful is a likely indicator that they (Apple) are not “crap” and are not CrApple

      • Urname

        Pretty sure it was always fan boys who lined up for the iPhone, from the original til now.

        – spoken as a fan boy who’s lined up twice (last time for the 6s, so don’t you worry, those lines are still going quite strong)

  • Blacklight: Retribution

    Leaks need to stop but they won’t because leakers love to get attention that they didn’t get as kids from their parents.

    • :D

      They get paid