iPhone Source Code Was Leaked by Low-Level Apple Employee

Earlier this week, source code for iBoot, a core component of the iPhone's operating system, leaked on GitHub. The code was old, for a version of iOS 9, and it was quickly pulled from GitHub after Apple issued a DMCA takedown notice, but it left many wondering how such sensitive code ended up publicly available.

To answer that question, Motherboard got in touch with unnamed sources who were involved in the leak and investigated screenshots, text messages, and more, to determine just how it happened.

ios 9 ipad iphone
As it turns out, the code originally came from a low-level Apple employee who took the code from Apple in 2016 to share with friends in the jailbreaking community. This employee wasn't unhappy with Apple and didn't steal the code with malicious intent, but instead was encouraged by friends to obtain the code to benefit the jailbreaking community.

The person took the iBoot source code--and additional code that has yet to be widely leaked--and shared it with a small group of five people.

"He pulled everything, all sorts of Apple internal tools and whatnot," a friend of the intern told me. Motherboard saw screenshots of additional source code and file names that were not included in the GitHub leak and were dated from around the time of this first leak.

The original group of five people who were provided with access to the code didn't intend to share it, but it somehow got out. From one of the original people involved:

"I personally never wanted that code to see the light of day. Not out of greed but because of fear of the legal firestorm that would ensue," they said. "The Apple internal community is really full of curious kids and teens.I knew one day that if those kids got it they'd be dumb enough to push it to GitHub."

The code began circulating more widely in 2017 and picked up in popularity late in the year before ending up on GitHub this week. Many in the jailbreaking and iPhone research communities attempted to stop sharing, but the major public leak couldn't be avoided.

According to the unnamed people who spoke to Motherboard, what leaked wasn't the "full leak." "It's not the original leak-it's a copy," said one source.

Following the leak, Apple confirmed the authenticity of the code in a statement to MacRumors and pointed out that it's for a three-year-old operating system that's been replaced by iOS 11 and is in use only on a small number of devices.

"Old source code from three years ago appears to have been leaked, but by design the security of our products doesn't depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections."

The iBoot code leak should not be of concern to the average user because Apple has many layers of protection in place, like the Secure Enclave, and does not rely on source code secrecy alone to keep its users safe. The leak could, however, make it easier for people to locate vulnerabilities to create new jailbreaks.

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

Revealed: iOS 18 Works With These iPhone Models

Monday June 10, 2024 3:57 am PDT by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the same iPhone models as iOS 17, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and hence also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, but older iPhone models will miss out. Here is the full...
ios 18 tile summary

Apple Announces iOS 18 With New Customization Features, Redesigned Photos App, and More

Monday June 10, 2024 10:17 am PDT by
Apple today previewed iOS 18, the next major update to the operating system for the iPhone, with new customization features, a redesigned Photos app, and more. iOS 18 features new customization tools for the Home Screen. App icons now feature Dark Mode and users can tint them with a color to create a unique look. Apps can also now be placed anywhere on the Home Screen freely. The Control...
WWDC24 Live Coverage Article

WWDC 2024 Apple Event Live Keynote Coverage: iOS 18, Apple's AI Push, and More

Monday June 10, 2024 9:20 am PDT by
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) starts today with the traditional keynote kicking things off at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. MacRumors is on hand for the event and we'll be sharing details and our thoughts throughout the day. We're expecting to see a number of software-related announcements with a focus on Apple's efforts to infuse AI throughout its operating systems and apps....
iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

Massive iPhone Upgrade Coming This Week But These Devices Will Miss Out

Sunday June 9, 2024 1:25 pm PDT by
Apple is planning a major AI overhaul in iOS 18, with a feature set it is referring to as "Apple Intelligence." However, these new features will not work on older iPhones, even if they do appear on the new operating system's device compatibility list. Apple's initial AI roadmap for iOS 18 is said to come in two parts: Basic AI features that will be processed on-device, and more advanced...
Next Gen CarPlay WWDC24 1

Apple Provides Updated Look at Next-Generation CarPlay at WWDC 2024

Monday June 10, 2024 7:11 pm PDT by
Apple today shared a few WWDC 2024 coding sessions related to its upcoming next-generation CarPlay system ahead of its launch later this year. The sessions include lots of updated next-generation CarPlay images, with one revealing new Vehicle, Media, and Climate apps in action for the first time. MacRumors previously discovered evidence of these apps in the iOS 17.4 beta. Next-generation...
iPad Air 5

New: iPadOS 18 Drops Support for These iPad Models

Monday June 10, 2024 4:16 am PDT by
iPadOS 18 will drop support for iPad models equipped with the A10X Fusion chip, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS and iPadOS updates. In other words, iPadOS 18 will drop support for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Support for the sixth-generation iPad, which uses the...
ios 18 button bulge

iOS 18 Adds Pop-Out Bezel Animation When Pressing iPhone Buttons

Tuesday June 11, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
iOS 18 includes a small but interesting change for the buttons on the iPhone, adding more of a visual element when changing volume, activating the Action button, or locking the screen. When you press an iPhone button in iOS 18, the display bezel bulges outward slightly. This feature is available for the volume buttons, Action button and the power button, and it will also likely be used for...

Top Rated Comments

rpmurray Avatar
83 months ago
Five people can keep a secret if five of them are dead.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OldSchoolMacGuy Avatar
83 months ago
BREAKING NEWS: Android source code leaked, possibly by Google themselves!!

https://source.android.com

This isn't a big deal. If anything it means finding some remaining open holes which can then be patched. All Linux is open source. There aren't issues there because of it. If anything it means others can help to find vulnerabilities which can then be corrected.

iOS 9 was released 3 years ago. A LOT has changed in the source code since then and this isn't even the entire source as it can't be compiled.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sputnikv Avatar
83 months ago
good way to ensure you don’t get hired by another tech giant
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lec0rsaire Avatar
83 months ago
What a scumbag. There's really no other word to describe someone who would do this. You're given an opportunity to work for one of the best companies in the industry or the world for that matter and you betray them in the worst way possible. This isn't a careless employee leaving an iPhone 4 prototype at a bar. Malicious intent or not, this is a criminal act and I hope this guy is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

It's one thing when jailbreakers find exploits on their own through countless hours of hard work and another thing when an employee violates the trust given to him by his employer. Thankfully the impact of this is limited and the security of most users won't be compromised but Apple will have to be a lot more careful with the people they hire from now on and what they're able to leave the premises with.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hsotnicam8002 Avatar
83 months ago
Thief - jail.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iOSFangirl6001 Avatar
83 months ago
Yikes. I wonder if he's going to be fired.
Pink Slip Time

The funny thing is that his friends push him to do it and then they expose him.
Funny how “friends” can throw friends under the bus huh?
Also peer pressure may have been a red flag as to how good of “friends” they really were

“Dude come do this thing that’s possibly illegal or could get us sued”

Not well thought out on the part of the friends
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)