This Guy Walked Away From The Genius Bar With A Drive Full Of Apple’s Retail Secrets [Exclusive Pics]


time capsule
An iCloud Capsule could work much like a Time Capsule.

After news broke yesterday that Apple had, for the second time in two years, lost an iPhone prototype at a San Francisco bar, the general reaction was one of incredulity. How could Cupertino carelessly misplace their prized corporate secrets twice in a row?

It happens more than you might think. In fact, we’ve got the exclusive scoop on how one guy walked out of his local Apple Store recently with something unique… a complete Time Machine backup of the Apple Store’s internal file server, filed with top secret and confidential Apple Store documents.

Even weirder? Apple just gave it to him.

Our tipster tells us that when his Mac was having problems, he brought it in for an appointment with the Genius Bar at the local Stamford, Connecticut Apple Store, which took it in to be fixed.

A couple days later, he was called to pick up his Mac. However, because it needed its hard drive replaced, his system had been totally wiped. When our tipster picked up his Mac, the Genius also handed him a hard drive, which he assumed was his old dead HDD.

When our tipster actually plugged the HDD into a USB enclosure to see if any of his old files could be salvaged, though, he says he found something very different: a complete Apple Retail Store server Time Machine backup disk containing secret internal docs dating from late 2009 to May 2011!

What’s on this disk? According to our tipster, “confidential docs, internal manuals, Apple’s sales technics, an Apple store work checklist, products layout, time schedules, pictures and videos of Apple corporate activities that only Apple employees can see, videos of store meetings, business structure and much much much more.”

“I always wondered what went on behind that big doors on the back of Apple Store,” our tipster writes. He never imagined he’d find out this way.

Here are some screenshots taken by our tipster in Finder showing the Apple Store Time Machine backup, complete with a few corroborating file previews of internal Apple Store documents, such as store layout, retail training videos and an internal memo about an imminent software upgrade.

The volumes in question were called “/Volumes/apple store/Backups.backupdb/teamserver/2009-11-23-095346/HD1/Server Users” & “/Volumes/apple store/Backups.backupdb/teamserver/2011-05-18-141707/HD1/Users/admin”.

These files look legit to us, which makes this one of the weirder stories that has come through our hands recently. What do you think?

Note: Our tipster originally approached Cult of Mac in the hopes of selling us the hard drive containing these Time Machine backups, and provided us these screenshots as proof. Cult of Mac does not pay for stories, and especially not things like confidential information or iPhone prototypes. As such, we strongly advised him to return the hard drive to Apple, and even offered to help facilitate the safe return of the disk if he was nervous about the exchange. We have not heard from him since.

  • Mrhunter9

    If he was an honest person, he would not have to be told to take the drive back and get the correct one from the store. This is what is wrong with people today. Only looking to make a buck off someone’s error. Let’s hope the guy from the apple store does not get fired over this.

  • TylerHoj

    I like the note you guys put at the bottom. Now we can all be safe and sound in knowing your not going to go Gizmodo on us. 

  • MacGoo

    Guess the moron didn’t hear about the guys who sold that prototype to Gizmodo. Does he really think he’s within the law here, or that Apple has no idea who he is? HE BOOKED A FREEKING GENIUS BAR APPOINTMENT. Not to mention that they have his old hard drive if he has theirs. Not so bright, this guy.

  • MuggyLittleC

    While I agree that this stuff isn’t “public knowledge”, I still wouldn’t regard it as Top Secret, as it seems pretty much anyone working for an Apple store could get hold of this info.

    If it had plans for an Apple branded international space station. I’d be impressed!

  • dagamer34

    Cult of Mac does not need to be the next Gizmodo.

  • shahn

    Untrustworthy, this guy.

  • Mithun Kumar

    Making a buck off someone’s error…. Isn’t that exactly what Apple does to us too?
    Why exactly, is it wrong to do the same to them?

  • John Neumann

    That store manager is the next Apple employee to model the upgraded Cement iShoes. 

  • Amardeep503

    thats beast !!!!

  • Morgan Washburn

    WTF!!! why would you even write about somting like this??!! good luck in court for leaking the info. Cult of Mac should know better!!!! we know what happen to Gizmodo. FAIL!!!

  • Jdsonice

    Good for you. I am glad COM did not buy the drive and I hope this guy returns it to Apple without showing its content to anyone. 

  • James Murphy

    wait… so how exactly does Apple “make a buck” off of your errors?

  • Jason Pruitt

    Hope the dude just returns it, and glad Cultofmac doesn’t pay for this stuff – as interesting as it would be.

  • designstrategies

    Are you saying it’s an error to buy Apple products? Apple is one of the few companies I can recommend without reservations for excellence in product design, usability, customer service and technical support.

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    Microsoft would pay millions of dollars to get hold of this information.  They would be able to duplicate everything that Apple has going for it.  That’s an awesome prize.

  • Yasaswy Nagavolu

    If you are obsessed in finding something wrong like finding prototype in a bar, finding time machine docs etc.. chances are you’ll find it with 100s of journalists and a lot of money flowing around to get hands on for this stuff.. just make sure you are not wasting cupertino’s time and might be helping them to give us better stuff.. To Err is human..

  • jon

    Ok so all the people that are saying that “if he was honest” etc. If you were in his shoes your first thoughts would not be “I need to return this to the apple store immediately”. This guy did what most of us would’ve done reported it to a well known apple blog of some what. Guess what there are people who pay for this hard drive, the gizmodo thing only discouraged some blogs.

  • Wayne_Luke

    You make the error of buying products with other operating systems. Later when you come to your senses, you buy Apple products. Thus Apple makes a buck off your errors. Or rather the errors of the other manufacturers.

  • anon

    Nothing about this is illegal? Its not purchased or stolen information, it was given to him by a store employee. If the files get released it may be immoral but it wouldn’t be against the law, and Cult of Mac isn’t doing anything wrong by simply reporting on it. 

  • prof_peabody

    You not only have no morals at all, you don’t even make sense.  

  • randall

    LOL, what did CoM do wrong? Reported someone has a secret Time Machine? Nothing about that is illegal, and they didn’t leak anything at all.

  • prof_peabody

    Just because you have no morals, don’t speak for me.  

    Normal human curiosity means a person probably would have looked through the material, but sending it to a blog is the act of someone who want’s something for nothing.  Someone who wants some kind of pathetic recognition and doesn’t care about anything else.  In other words, a selfish jerk. 

    This guy didn’t do “what most of us would do” he just did what *you* would do. 

    Most people would probably look through it, realise it’s fairly boring stuff, and then take the drive back to the store. 

  • MacGoo

    Ok, deal. Now new scenario: You accidentally pay me (the store clerk) with a $500 instead of a $5. Instead of pointing this out, I process your change and let you go on your merry way. I pocket the extra $495 and check it off as fate. You come back into the store the next day after realizing your error and ask for the money back. My response is honest. “Yeah, you did give me a $500. I had a great time on the money, thanks!” You’re incredulous that I spent the money when it was obviously a mistake. To which my response is “Dude, it was your mistake, not mine. Get lost!” You’re telling me you wouldn’t call the police, or at least demand a manager immediately? Your comparisons are patently ridiculous if they’re hyperbole and borderline sociopathic if they’re not.

  • Timothy Williamson

    Contents of the drive posted on Gizmodo in 3…2…1…

  • MacGoo

    There’s a difference between posting screenshots and leaking confidential info sir. If they had agreed to purchase the hard drive or had posted anything of concern (like a possible iPhone 5 design) there might be more to lament. But as is, CoM is in the clear. Please don’t overreact.

  • MacGoo

    Lawyer you are? If so, more training you need. Begin here, you should:

  • MacGoo

    Under Connecticut law, the guy is committing larceny. Depending on the valuation of the hard drive, very likely it’s GRAND larceny. So…um…yeah. Against the law. Hopefully no confidential hard drives fall into your hands sir. You would be in for a rude awakening.

    “Larceny includes, but is not limited to: . . . .
    (4) Acquiring property lost, mislaid or delivered by mistake. A person who comes into control of property of another that he knows to have been lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the nature or amount of the property or the identity of the recipient is guilty of larceny if, with purpose to deprive the owner thereof, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to a person entitled to it. “

  • Primate1

    Wonder if the guy that took it would like it if Apple or anybody else for that matter, took his drive and laid it out there for the public to pick through.  He should return it.  It’s good karma and makes him one less d**khead in the world.

  • MacGoo

    Please don’t speak for me either. Would I be curious? Sure. But would I do the right thing? Absolutely.

  • MsManners

    I would like to have a word with your parents and the parents of the guy who took something that was not his and then pretended it was and he could do what he wanted to with it. Don’t assume your lack of morals applies to everyone else.

  • Dan Uff

    Well, another Apple Genius fired….

  • fishkid13

    Wise move, Gizmodo take note.

  • James T

    It doesn’t matter who this is happening to it’s the act itself and your actions afterwards that determine whether or not you’re a pathetic person.

    Like if the kid down the street mows your great grandmothers lawn and she pays him with a hundred instead of a ten, the kid notices it but doesn’t say anything and spends it on himself. So one persons mistake is another persons opportunity? 

    Then sir, I feel bad for the day if you make a mistake and someone else makes off like a bandit.

  • nm41806

    its not like the guy showed everyone on the blog like hello its screen shots that dont show any confidential stuff. i mean unless you call the pictures confidential. and omg no way they are gonna update snow leopard omg let me tell everyone in the world that there will be an upgrade for a mac. there are upgrades for macs every day like everyone is taking this way out of hand. hes the only one with the info. i mean unless you can look at the files and magically open them in your mind or something then maybe you should go to a therapist because your seeing things.  a screen shot is nothing oh and by the way im sure millions of geniouses know all about the confidental stuff they have on that drive. did you ever hear of hacking.. exactly so start worrying about your kids not who stole what and didnt return it. 

  • JC

    I bet this guy has already been apprehended by Apple Ninjas

  • MacGoo

    If I understand your post correctly, you think I’m agreeing with this guy? Please re-read my post. Particularly the last few lines.

  • jonathanlking

    so much for them being a “genius” :)

  • Jake Hewitt

    Your an ass hole

  • CharliK

    Given the unlikelihood of the store using time capsules versus a physical server and how easy it would be to mock up a faux volume for some screenshots, I”m not buying this one at face

  • Len Williams

    Jon, you are only speaking for yourself and your low ethics level. It is against the law (see MacGoo’s “Larceny” post above) for this guy to not return what is obviously Apple’s property. If this happened to me, I’d immediately call the Apple Store and get the drive back to them. It’s their property and was handed out by mistake. Apple’s strategy from the start has been “doing the right thing”, and honesty is a big part of that. Honesty makes a happy life. Dishonesty makes a fearful, untrusting and uncomfortable life. Look up the word “karma” for more details. Criminals are very unhappy people.

  • Krisidious

    and you don’t know English… you are = you’re

  • Gxmedeiros

    The apple store uses Excel instead of Numbers as the default spreadsheet application??? How come?

  • willsmorgan

    I don’t get it. It’s not that big a deal is it? This is the type of stuff my work send down every day, just boring merchadising, news and general updates. Just because it’s an Apple store doesn’t mean that it’s any different from other retailers does it. (Kudos for not buying it off someone trying to take advantage of an honest mistake)

  • JohnReindoer

    Yes, I’m pretty sure every criminal alive is very unhappy. I can’t imagine a criminal in the world living atop a big pile of cash, with all the luxury and not a care in the world. Karma only works for people who believe in it, there are loads of people with so called bad karma that have led happy lives. The effects it may have on you are the effects you allow it to have. Or do you believe some imaginary God is personally checking up on you every five minutes to check your karma rating?

    Maybe you’re just thinking about people who commit petty crimes that don’t bring up enough to make up for their miserable lives and money problems.

    Good for you that you want to do the right thing, I personally wouldn’t care about returning it back to the Apple Store, but wouldn’t think about selling it to a blog either. And I wouldn’t lose sleep over having data that doesn’t really belong to me either. Then again, I wouldn’t actively steal it either, but if it came in my possession the way it did with this person it would be an entirely different story. What an unhappy person I must be.

  • desmarsol

    I hope that everyone else this jerk tries to “sell” this information to behaves as ethically as you have. What this person deserves is to have is bad Karma. I for one am hoping his/her hard drive crashes again soon. :)

  • desmarsol

    I agree. Speak for yourself Jon. I would not seek any blog to sell it to. I’d go right back down to the mall here in Stamford and tell them what happened. If they offered me an iTunes giftcard as a thank you I’d take it but I would never try to sell the drive or the info. to anyone. There are at least a few people who are still honest even if you’re not one of them. Does the phrase “do unto others and you would have them do onto you” ring a bell with you?

  • Spico

    Furthermore,  Apple does not use Time Machine for its internal backup purposes, it uses “CrashPlan”.  For a Server especially, Apple feels its important to use CrashPlan over Time machine, apparently Time Machine does not not properly backup any active databases that may be running to support app services on a Mac Server (according to more than one Apple Store staffer I’ve spoken with – I use a Mac Server).

    Of course there are probably numerous reasons that Time Machine could have been active on a system in an Apple Store…

  • ? Planeta Apple ?

    if he was there for an appointment, then Apple has all the info to get the HDD back. Call the police!

  • JohnReindoer

    Well, nature has made an error in not including a touchscreen phone with a decent operating system in my arm so I had to buy an iPhone.

    Damn you Apple!

  • John

    Used to work at the apple store mall of America and was one of the leads on the visuals team at one point. I can tell you those files are indeed real. The story on how it all happened, however, who knows.

  • facebook-505899793

    Wouldn’t the screen shots show what the settings were on the guy’s computer?

  • Mak Solmoro

    Look at the file “Schedule”. The extension is “.xls” instead of “.numbers”

  • Mak Solmoro

    yeah, most of Apple Geniuses are not so clever.
    sometimes, It’s better to ask people on forum sites like insanelymac

  • Domenico

    People should be honest and return items thatApple have lost, without make them pubblic. All this will tarnish Apple reputation the know how and everything else around Apple. Question is to those stupid idiots that want to publish it, is? Would you want your personal informations and projects to be publish on the net so that everybody will take advantage from it? Obviously damage is already been done and Those people should be heavily fines and charged and it would not hurt to let them spend e few days in jail…………….

  • Apple Fan

    Similar thing happened to me, it was shipped to me though and i didn’t intend to return the drive, i needed it.  But, i carefully looked at the contents, had some fun studying it, then formatted the drive and backed up my computer to it :)

  • willsmorgan

    I’m pretty sure an Apple store was broken in to not only the other day….coincidence?

  • Apple Fan

    Similar thing happened to me, it was shipped to me though and i didn’t
    intend to return the drive, i needed it.  But, i carefully looked at the
    contents, had some fun studying it, then formatted the drive and backed
    up my computer to it :)

  • Arrobazeppelin

    making them public like cult of mac you mean?

  • Mr x

    One thing, karma has nothing to do with this life. If you do believe in it, it refers to the next life you’ll live. People use the term exceedingly wrong. You’re not necessarily unhappy, just low ethics. It’s obviously not his, so to keep it is wrong. It’s the kind of choice that if a clerk gave you back to much or didn’t charge you for something, you’d say nothing and go on feeling that it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t make the mistake, so it’s not on you. Doesn’t mean it’s still not wrong.

  • CharliK

    it is more likely that this was a disgruntled employee that swiped a few files to make it look like everything was legit rather than a genius handing a customer the wrong thing. This is after all the company that wouldn’t like my sister who has the same last name and the same home address and the paperwork pick up my laptop after a repair. Interestingly also for a hard drive repair and they said they can’t give back the hard drives but have to send them back to some warehouse or such. 

  • CharliK

    It’s possible there is something else more special like the date of release and specs of the next everything. Doubt it but that is the implication. 

  • CharliK

    Seems more like something that might be used by particular staff members. Like the manager might have time machine for a company provided laptop or desktop in his/her office. Or since this was apparently merchandising stuff, perhaps there’s a computer just for that group of folks and they have time machine backing up just their stuff. 

  • CharliK

    Anything that Apple hasn’t released to the public is confidential. But you are right that in terms of confidential stuff this seems like a non story. No specs for the new iPhone, no notice that they are cutting prices on everything but only on the 29th of Feb. 

  • CharliK

    How do you know that this really was given to a customer. Maybe the Genius was already being fired and snatched the drive and stuck it in his pants and walked out with it. ANd made up this story to try to embarrass his store and make a little money if possible. 

  • CharliK

    Actually my first thought would be ‘where the F is MY stuff’. Understand part of that is that I work in the film industry and I have a lot of confidential info on my computer and potentially on said drive. Things like major persons email, phone and address. I would want to make sure that that info isn’t being snooped into by the jerk that kept my drive etc

  • Ruckingfetard

    So you refused his offer but still use all the content he gave you and make a story out of it? Wow that’s low :/

  • Guest

    In my country (Norway) Apple is notorious for trying weasel out of the consumer laws, they even break them even tho they have been warned several times of what the actual laws are, and there are a few cases against them now.

    In a survey done with retailers here (out 2 days ago), where 750ish responded, Apple is the worst company when it comes to following consumer law and service, as well as length of repair time.

    So they do make a buck breaking the law here at least.

  • Howie Isaacks

    Here’s a fresh thought…  Why not give the drive back instead of trying to sell it to COM?  Jeez!  This guy is very sleezy to not offer the drive back to Apple.  I’m sure he would have been really pissed off if he found out that Apple handed his drive to another customer.  Does Apple not deserve the same consideration that the rest of us feel that we deserve?  

  • Howie Isaacks

    Finally!  Someone with moral values!

  • Howie Isaacks

    That’s because Numbers blows.  I’ve tried to use it several times, but it just sucks!

  • Mike

    We live in a word without principles, ethics and moral. Money and lack of principles is what rules in the world. What would you expect? Just 0.1% of the population has principles. 

  • Abc

    I hope he sends them an invoice for using his screenshots.

  • Chris Cooper

    Sleezy is the opaqueness and greed created by capitalism in this country.. None of these files have reason to be “super secret”, other than increasing profit margins via hidden tactics.

  • guest

    You mean “ethically” in the sense that COM refused to buy what he was offering, but then still went and used the content he provided to generate traffic and ad revenue?

    Get real.  COM acts all high and mighty in this story, and then does the same thing they’re chiding the guy for.

  • Chris Cooper

    Here’s the deal… 

    1. You aren’t a “genius” simply because you withhold procedural information. 
    2. Transparency in business creates progress for everyone, not profit for one.
    3. You don’t receive a herp, and derp it back. Never go full retard. 

  • SokNoo

    Oh wow, very nice. That could have been worth some money!

  • Axxzzxxa

    So… if the guy made a torrent of that hard drive or made an extra copy and then returned it to Apple he’d be off the hook?

  • Eric

    “sales techniques” not “sales technics”

  • MacGoo

    Digital assets are what give that particular hard drive its implied value, so no. The contents of the drive are the property of Apple as well. Stop trying to justify this guy’s actions folks – he’s breaking the law, and no matter how badly you want him to be right, he simply isn’t.

  • bigdave914

    The “tipsters” name is Vika, first screenshot top right corner.  WoOPS!

    Backed up here: in case its removed.

  • Guest

    contents of the drive published on pirate bay in 3…2…1…

  • Axxzzxxa

    i’m not arguing that it would be moraly (or ethicly) right if he would do that but looking at your previous statement i fail to see how that would fall under larcency seeing how he doesent deprive the owner of his/her property  nor wishes to do so even if the property is data but only makes a copy of it and afterwards returns the property with no damage whatsoever done to it… I’d also like to direct your attention to the ”if clausle” in the law, so by my understanding whatever he does with the product so long as he takes reasonable measures to return the property he’s innocent. Of course i’m not a lawyer so i have no idea whether there are any legal precedents to cases like these.

  • HammyHavoc

    That’s Cult Of Mac; Sensationalist nonsense for the most part. The level of ‘journalism’ is beginning to approach Gizmodo levels. Sorry, guys, but so much of what is on here is just click bait. It’s gotten to the point where anything even remotely related to Apple is published; It has nothing to do with Macs, plus the majority of it has no actual worth as a piece of writing.

  • HammyHavoc

    These people probably have nothing going on in their lives in terms of ‘projects’ and thus cannot relate in any manner.

  • SimonSays


  • octechnophile

    posting the story and posting ads against that story = capitalism and a profit story. interesting story but CultofMac actually made money off the story this way vs paying for it ahead of time with pageviews.

  • Aa

    techniques, not technics

  • U67er

    Say tipster again. I dare you.

  • JohnDoey

    I think you are using the word “secrets” pretty loosely.

  • DocNo42

    “Sleezy is the opaqueness and greed created by capitalism in this country”

    I’m curious – the funds you used to procure the computer, Internet and electricity used to create your post – where did they originate?

  • nthnm

    That doesn’t really mean his name is Vika though.

  • nthnm

    C’mon, do you really expect a blog post on here containing 100% correct spelling and grammar?

  • nthnm

    Hahaha. That is so true. 

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  • Conrad Green

    He didnt steal it so they cant call the police on him. It was given to him whether it was a accident or not so it is now clearly his. If you sell something to someone and unaware of its contents that its the representatives fault not the consumer.

  • m_hardwick

    This is a load of bollocks, because Apple don’t repair Time Capsules in house.

  • m_hardwick

    Yes they can, he clearly knows that he has been given information belonging to someone else and does not intend to return it or make them aware of the situation… further more intends to profit on said information. That is illegal.

    This is of course all missing the point that this is clearly actually just stolen data and not some kind of error in the repair shop because Apple don’t repair the time capsules in house.

  • Tom

    Read the article…

  • Sammy

    What is the ebay app on the dock? Does ebay have an app now?

  • HvT


  • Kyle

    ahhh, yes they do… Because I have.

  • Guest

    They have backups of the information, and if they don’t oh well. But i can tell you that if i was that guy and received a hard drive in working condition then i would wipe it, since i give two shits about “Apples Confidential” information, just like i gave two shits about the Army’s Classified information, place it into my NAS and proceed to fill it with torrents. 

  • nathanielpoe


  • lylh17
  • ? ?

    C jing?????

  • MacGoo

    There is no indication that he intends to return the drive, and his alleged attempt to sell it bear that out. So yes, he IS depriving the owner of their property AND failing to take reasonable measures to restore it to Apple. And besides that, pretending that there are no legal ramifications to copying confidential information (and hiding behind naivete) is just a smokescreen. The guy is guilty. I know it, he knows it and you know it too.

  • Apple

    Actually this makes no sense. Im pretty sure a high end company like Apple keeps track records of what they repaired, or any other jobs, when they did them, and who they did them for. When they received his request, they must have taken down his name right? Now im also pretty sure kids are going to say “well how would they know who got the HDD?” – Its a local store, how many cases of hard drive replacement does a small Apple store get? (considering their outstanding build quality) Its so simple to find this guy and they would have done it as soon as this story got released.