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It looks like Apple is taking the gloves off when it comes to plugging more holes in its veil of secrecy, with several prominent leakers now finding themselves on the receiving end of Apple’s legal wrath.
This news comes from reliable leaker Kang, who has been responsible for such tidbits as spilling the beans on the full iPhone 12 lineup. He recently revealed on the Chinese social media site Weibo that he and several other leakers have been receiving admonitory letters from a law firm commissioned by Apple.
While the law firm doesn’t appear to be threatening legal action at this point, it does caution leakers about disclosing information about unreleased Apple products, noting that doing so will not only stand to help Apple’s competitors, but can also “mislead customers because what is disclosed may not be accurate.”
Kang notes that Apple supplied screenshots of his Weibo feed as evidence, which included not only product release dates, but also purchase suggestions for his followers, problems he experienced with his iPhone, and a series of more casual posts.
Recently, Apple commissioned a law firm to send some letters in groups, and I also received this group sending. The content is probably that you can’t disclose what we haven’t published online, which will give Apple’s competitors effective information and also mislead consumers because the disclosed may not be accurate.Kang, on Weibo (Translated via Safari)
However, the leaker also points out that he had “never published undisclosed product pictures,” and only posts “riddles and dreams” about undisclosed projects, keeping things intentionally vague.
He takes exception with the idea that “even dreaming will violate their confidentiality mechanism,” but added that since “talking will be audited,” he will have to scale back what he posts about Apple in the future.
While Kang suggests that these letters were sent out to numerous other leakers, it’s unclear who these were. Another leaker, DuanRui, who was known for leaking the new iPad Air user manual and photos of the iPhone 12 mini case stickers last year, made a generic comment on Twitter that letters had been sent to “the leaker in China,” but it’s not certain they actually received one themselves.
Meanwhile, another prolific leaker, L0vetodream, claims to have not heard anything at all from Apple or any lawyers representing the company — at least not yet.
It’s worth noting, however, that the information L0vetodream shares is significantly more cryptic. Kang, on the other hand, not only leaked exhaustive details on the entire iPhone 12 lineup a few days in advance of Apple’s October event last fall, but also shared early info about the HomePod mini, and predicted the arrival of MagSafe technology for the iPhone.
In fact, according to AppleTrack, which describes him as knowing “exactly what Apple is working on, to the tee,” Kang has a 97.1% track record for accuracy, having also predicted the arrival of this year’s iPad Pro, the MagSafe and MagSafe Duo chargers, the 2020 iPad Air — including all five colours it would be coming in — and numerous details on the Apple Watch Series 6. He also nailed the name “Big Sur” for macOS 11, and shared numerous details on last year’s iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 releases in the days leading up to WWDC 2020.
Apple on the Offensive
The recent spate of letters to prolific leakers may simply be the latest move in a much more aggressive leak-plugging campaign that Apple began earlier this year.
Although Apple has employed very tough measures behind the scenes for a long time — particularly within its supply chain — over the past few months it’s gone on the offensive. Rather than merely trying to cut off product leaks at the source, it’s now aggressively going after those who actually disclose this information to the public and the press.
For instance, Apple recently filed a lawsuit against a former employee, accusing him of abusing his position to steal trade secrets and pass them to an outside media correspondent for personal gain. While the case doesn’t provide any details, the timing suggests that Lancaster may have been the source of a major leak about Apple’s AR Headset plans in late 2019.
There’s also evidence that Apple may have conducted a sting operation in March to ferret out sources of internal leaks by planting misinformation about a March 23 Apple Event. Multiple leakers bought into the rumours, including Kang, L0vetodream, and Jon Prosser.
However, Prosser also later revealed that while several of his sources were saying the event would be held on March 23, he should have listened to the one “crazy accurate” source with a perfect track record that had said the event was being held in April.
Ultimately, however, Apple seems to be ramping up its counter-intelligence efforts on multiple fronts, with a recent report also revealing that it’s cracking down much harder in its supply chain as well, requiring criminal background checks from all workers, and tracking the movements of sensitive parts throughout its factories. Additional security teams have also been hired to immediately respond to red flags, such as parts taking unusually long times to reach their destinations.
One thing that seems certain, however, is that as Apple prepares to move into the next phase of innovative products like Apple Glass and the Apple Car, Tim Cook wants to make sure that he is the first one to tell the world about the company’s coolest new products, rather than the news coming from a cabal of shadowy leakers.