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Apple, it's OK. Seriously. You don't need to blind your iOS 15 engineers to prevent leaks
No one expects the Worldwide Loyalty Team!
During the development of iOS 15, Apple reportedly limited the extent to which engineers could see features being worked on by other colleagues to prevent potential leaks.
As spotted by 9to5Mac, each new feature introduced with the beta version of iOS 15 is accompanied with a unique flag associated with a "disclosure requirement". Internal versions of the operating system check the unique profile of each engineer and tester against this flag, limiting access to certain features as a result.
Apple has historically clouded its operations through a thick shroud of secrecy. Part of this has something to do with protecting the firm's intellectual property, and ensuring it remains in full control over how information about its upcoming products is distributed.
In the past, it has protected that secrecy with zeal. After Gizmodo purchased a stolen pre-release version of the iPhone 4, under circumstances which raised ethical and legal questions, Apple responded by contacting local law enforcement, which conducted a raid on the journalist believed to be responsible.
- With incoming iOS 15, update refuseniks will be given choice to stay where they are while still receiving security patches
- Apple ditches support for pre-2015 MacBook Air, Pro laptops with macOS Monterey
- Apple's macOS 12 adds improved virtualization though no sign of anything like Boot Camp on M1 silicon
- Everything Apple announced: Tor-ish Safari anonymization. Cloaked iCloud addresses. Cloud CI/CD. And more
Apple is also believed to have an internal secret police force, known as the Worldwide Loyalty Team, tasked with protecting the secrecy of its upcoming products and weeding out would-be leakers.
In recent years, Apple has struggled to maintain that shroud, in part due to the widespread nature of its supply chain, which introduces multiple potential vectors for leakage. Sometimes, these leaks happen without any foul play from the component manufacturer.
Earlier this year, attackers breached Quanta Computer, obtaining confidential blueprints that purportedly depicted upcoming MacBook Pro laptops.
Despite these measures, Apple has been known to inadvertently reveal upcoming project changes through simple human error. Earlier this week, the company uploaded footage of its WWDC event containing metadata references to an M1X chip and an M1X MacBook Pro.
This mistake effectively confirmed the name of the M1's successor, as well as the next likely Mac to come from Apple. After others realised its mistake, Apple swiftly deleted these tags, but the cat was by that time very much out of the bag. ®