The unprecedented leak that revealed many iPhone X features and other Apple secrets has robbed Tuesday’s launch of its power to surprise—and was almost certainly an inside job.

Leo Kelion, reporting for the BBC, has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided 9to5Mac and MacRumors with links to an as-yet-unreleased iOS 11 Gold Master build and, more damagingly, the iPhone X IPSW image file that contains all sorts of unknown details.

From the report:

The BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11’s Gold Master code that downloaded the software from Apple’s own computer servers.

Many tech bloggers, us here at iDownloadBlog included, were shocked and couldn’t believe the scope of the secrets revealed ahead of the launch, including the official iPhone X name and features, how the new Face ID facial recognition technology works with Apple Pay, confirmation of wireless charging, how all-new 3D sensors and cameras are capable of mapping users’ expressions onto three-dimensional emojis and much, much more.

When the iOS 11 Gold Master build hit the web on Saturday, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber postulated that even though the leaked firmware files were available to download by anyone, they were obfuscate by long, unguessable URLs.

He said:

The story no one seems to be talking about is how these GM builds leaked. Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I’m nearly certain this wasn’t a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee.

In another post the following day, Gruber pretty much corroborated BBC’s information and practically confirmed that “I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty” that the leak was sent to the publications by an Apple employee.

From his post:

I wish I could say more about how I know what I know, but it’s good to see the BBC confirm this. The BBC doesn’t say definitively that the leak was sent by an Apple employee, but I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty that it was.

These URLs were not discovered by guessing the URLs, or because they were published at obvious URLs prematurely. Someone who works at Apple emailed these URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. The list of URLs they leaked included every device. The least amount of heretofore unknown information that was going to come out of this leak was massive, and whoever leaked it knew that.

Gruber is well connected and his sources range from official spokespeople to “little birdies.”

“That person should be ashamed of themselves,” he added.

“My understanding is the same as John’s,” writes iMore’s Rene Ritchie. “The leak was internal and intentional. And it was incredibly damaging to the company. It’s just about impossible to believe anyone in a position to leak those links wouldn’t know that.”

Rene adds:

If that’s difficult to understand, just realize that, come Tuesday afternoon, instead of hearing about the announcements and the surprises, we’ll be hearing about how the leaks were confirmed and, from those in the media who continually mistake cynicism for intelligence, how “boring” Apple has become.

As hard as it is to believe someone inside Apple would leak the firmware, it just as hard to believe such a leak was possible. The firmware was live on the Internet, protected only through obscured URL. That means, when the URLs were leaked, anyone could access the firmware. No VPN, login credentials or other security checks required.

It’s absolutely the fault of the leaker but my guess is that the days of security through obscurity are done and Apple locks down the firmware delivery process ASAP.

No matter how you look at it, you gotta feel for the thousands of people who have worked on iPhone X and other upcoming products for probably two years only to see all their hard work taken away from them on the public web—and for what?

To be sure, I have nothing against blogs that broke Apple’s secrets. That’s what journalism is all about—discovering information that someone out there doesn’t want us to know.

If 9to5Mac didn’t publish any of the information based off of this massive dump, other blogs would have jumped on it for sure. Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t put it back.

To put it differently. It’s OK for folks like Guilherme Rambo‏ and Steven Stroughton-Smith to dig through the files on the public web, even via secret URLs. And it’s certainly OK for journalists to publish information they receive from people like Guilherme and Steven.

What isn’t OK is for some rogue employee or perhaps a disgruntled carrier or partner to pass on URLs meant for internal use to media, knowing perfectly well it’d be hugely damaging.

Some say more surprises were spoiled by this leak than any leak in Apple history.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this feels like iPhone 4/Gizmodo Vol. 2—actual hardware, mind you, has not leaked like in the Gizmodo case—there’s no doubt in my mind that the incident has spoiled the element of surprise. And because of the sheer scope of this leak, Apple is going to find out who did this, eventually.

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And when they do, I wouldn’t want to be in that person’s shoes when their phone rings.

On a brighter note, the general public that doesn’t read tech blogs or follows technology on a daily basis probably does not know about any of this. The average consumer will hear about new iPhones from big media and Apple’s ads, then learn more about the phones from their friends and family before they waltz inside an Apple Store with a credit card in their pocket.

As Ben Wood of technology consultancy firm CCS Insight commented:

There will be an unbelievable effort within Apple to determine how this happened and I don’t envy the person that did it because there will be no forgiveness for it.

For other companies this might have huge impact on the effectiveness of their grand official launches, but for Apple there is such insatiable demand for even the smallest details and such an obsessive fan-following of is products that even a very detailed leak will do little to dampen the enthusiasm of bloggers and others to report its news.

What I’m getting at is: it’s the work that matters, not launch leaks, and the work is top notch.

What do you think has transpired here?

Could Apple have leaked all this stuff intentionally to perhaps give us lesser important tidbits to chew on during the weekend so they could dedicate more stage time to the things that really matter? Or was it an intentional act of sabotage?

A disgruntled employee on the iPhone team gone rogue on his last day on the job, maybe? Or something entirely different? Your guess is as good as ours so do leave your comments below.

Me?

I say leaks be damned, I’m still going to be wowed Tuesday.

  • Favna

    Leaks be damned indeed Christian. Bring the wow Apple.

  • Rowan09

    Someone might be getting fired and deserve to.

    • Jay

      Maybe worse.

      • Ángel Javier Esquivel

        I think he might be banned from Silicon Valley. I mean, if the dude’s looking for a job, definitely no company would like to have them on their side. That level of treason deserves a higher level of punishment.

        My 2 cents tho.

  • Brock

    Anyone have the links to iOS 11 GM? Lol

    • malhal

      They are on Reddit but they mention that Apple stopped signing it you couldn’t install it anyway.

      • Jay

        You don’t need to install it to browse through firmware.

  • malhal

    The BBC said it was an anonymous source which is pretty obvious. They did not say it was an Apple employee, only Gruber said that. Comparing the leaked URLs to last years GM and previous 11 betas there isn’t too much of a difference, they were probably guessed.

    • Gruber said that with 100 percent certainty with the caveat that he can’t tell us how he knows this but nevertheless I think it’s pretty much clear that it was an inside job

      • malhal

        Maybe if you buy one of his mattresses he’ll tell you! 😉

  • Jamessmooth

    Regardless of the leaks, we’re all still going to watch on Tuesday and be wowed. Good article. Nothing wrong with sites reporting on this stuff. I don’t get all the backlash against 9to5. Makes no sense.

    • Iskren Donev

      Indeed, the onus is on the person who is leaking the information, not the publication. If 9to5Mac declined to take the story another publication would have done so.

  • Jose Rivera

    As bad as this may sound, I have the links for the iPhone 6/6S & 7, and iPad Air 2, mini 3 and 4… I was one of the few who as able to get it installed on a device when I know I shouldn’t have but I had to. LOL It feels so much better and smoother than the betas…

  • askep3

    Imagine if this was all on purpose and they have a giant surprise in for us on tuesday

    • Braddock81

      I swear I was thinking and hoping the same thing

      • Vince Reedy

        You can take this to the bank since it’s singable firmware

  • AOGV

    You Damn right leaks be damned

    • You nailed it, he is a great marketeer

      • AOGV

        Has a degree in biology I believe and somehow is svp of worldwide marketing at Apple. Unbelievable

    • Nathaniel

      True dat

    • Jay

      I heard he sold salt to not one but two slugs, twice!

    • credulousgeek

      Spot on and i am sure despite high price tag people will buy the X more.

    • raulortiz318

      Agree. Truthfully nothing that exciting was uncovered, we all knew about facial scanning, no TouchID, the notch, how they might handle it in software, Apple Watch LTE, etc, for a long time now. What was really new? Face emoji?

      Getting to see all this running live, demos of the facial scan, the actual final phone hardware, that’s the exciting stuff and I’m looking forward to the event.

  • Bibibombibi

    I bet iPhone X will be shaking the world of mobile platform once again…. And all Android makers will start following the trends after that, as usual…..

    • MMA Rules

      1000% agree with you!!

    • Mark S

      Oh I’m sure the world will fawn all over Android once they release their next OS called Gummy Bear, or Nerds or some other stupid crap.

    • dimm0k

      lol c’mon, wireless charging? it’s time for you to get off your Apple high horse and realize features on Android have been copied by Apple and vice versa… it’s good to have this sort of competition otherwise you would end up like BlackBerry, catering to a niche market so stop lying to yourself that it’s one sided

      • Bibibombibi

        Yes, indeed having competition is good, especially for the customers. Problem is, features released by Android are not even making it big like the ones coming from Apple! Yes, wireless charging is nothing new since Android already has it for long time. But with the push from Apple, I bet you will start seeing even more places are supporting wireless charging, because the world cares about Apple more than Android. Sadly, Android is more for nerds than the average customers out there.

        In this era, is not about who invented first, but more about who can push the trends further. And that’s Apple.

    • M_Hawke

      Guess you didn’t read Benedict Evans’ tweet up above?

      • Bibibombibi

        And he is right! Not being the first is fine, but able to push the trend forward, is sure to be from Apple. See how Apple removed the 3.5mm jack and now Android makers are also doing the same thing? It’s just amazing right?

      • M_Hawke

        Well, too bad you used the example of getting rid of the headphone jack as I and many others think that is a lain-brained idea that shouldn’t be pushed. 😉

  • Juniors234

    watch and see the iPhone X will be oval in shape with three front facing 3d cameras, hearbeat recognition, and built in self destruct mechanisms to protect user data. Don’t mind these leaks. They suck. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • Lit

    Of course it was an inside job. If it was an outside job, wouldn’t that mean Apple got hacked? lol. That would be worse.

    • Iskren Donev

      The way I understand it, Apple was employing security through obscurity, meaning that the URLs needed to download the OS image were publicly accessible, they were just very long and full of random symbols. But if you got those right you would be able to get the file – no authorization, passwords or hacking required.

      Going forward I bet that Apple steps up their game tremendously.

  • racerhomie

    The bastard ,should have his severance check cancelled .
    No mercy for Leakers.
    Supply chain leaks are one thing.
    But this guy was just an A hole.

  • burge

    Yes there was leak but it was sites such as this that reported what people found that ruined the surprise.

  • Nathaniel

    I really do feel bad for Apple with all that’s going on. They do all this hard work and planning, then someone just leaks it all?, and to top it off, three days before when the excitement is really starting to pick up even more. We can wait three days. Whoever this Apple employee is that did this horrible thing should not only be fired, but put in jail. If you’re Tim, you’re not feeling so good right now.

  • TwoSim
    • Iskren Donev

      Took me a good minute to figure out what that’s about

  • TwoSim
  • Sorry, I’m normally with you guys all the way, but the leak didn’t ruin the surprise, tech blogs ruined it. No one forced you to join the crowd and publish the leak’s info.

    Mashable were sent leaked GoT episodes and social media account info and they actively refused to publish it so why can’t others follow that same principle.

  • pnh

    The only effect of this is hard core geeks won’t be able to “ooh” and “aah” at 10 am PST tomorrow (Tuesday). Will it affect sales? Nope. So, as a stockholder- who cares?

  • Ángel Javier Esquivel
  • zustroy

    I would be sorry even more, if they had made good looking iPhone X.

  • clarkey

    Oh I’m sure the world will fawn all over Android once they release their next OS called Gummy Bear, or Nerds or some other stupid crap.

  • M_Hawke

    What ever side of the fence you’re on about these leaks, I don’t think it’s a big deal. If all the leaks are true, not much really has been exposed and a demo of these features are still only in the imagination and haven’t been actually seen in real life, so have fun at the announcement!

  • Riley Freeman

    i don’t get it. All you blogs get leaks all the time and i know you all love it because it gets hits on your websites and now you’re all upset at an employee for doing what generates the most hits to any phone blog website (a leak).

    are you guys really trying to say you only want some leaks and not all? I get the apple fans maybe feeling that way but i dont buy blog sites feeling like that at all.

    And before someone thinks im an android user or something i have had every iphone since the 3gs except for 5c, 6s and the SE models and i plan i buying the 8 or x or whatever the hell they call it.

    This is not a shot at idownloadblog just a comment more so about all the blogs that are scolding someone for doing what you all love realistically