SAN FRANCISCO, March 18 (Reuters) - Apple Inc, amid a pitched battle with the U.S. government over law enforcement’s desire to crack into iPhones, has hired a new security executive to oversee its corporate digital defenses, people familiar with the matter said.
Apple appointed George Stathakopoulos, formerly vice president of information security at Amazon.com Inc and before that Microsoft Corp’s general manager of product security, to be vice president of corporate information security, the people said.
Apple declined to comment on the new hire, but a reporter calling Apple and asking to speak with him was connected to a person answering ‘George’s office’. Stathakopoulos did not immediately return the call.
Stathakopoulos reports to Apple’s chief financial officer and will be responsible for protecting corporate assets, such as the computers used to design products and develop software, as well as data about customers. The company’s heads of hardware and software remain in charge of protecting users of Apple’s products.
Stathakopoulos started a week ago at Apple, according to people familiar with matter, after working since 2010 at Amazon, which has a strong reputation among security professionals. Before that he worked more than eight years as a general manager at Microsoft, which is seen as having improved its security over the past decade and a half.
The new post is a sign of increased focus on security issues at Apple. The world’s most valuable publicly traded company is locked in an unprecedented fight with the U.S. Justice Department, which wants Apple to write software to allow it to get data from an iPhone 5C used by a shooter in the San Bernardino killing spree.
Apple and many allies in the technology industry argue that forcing the company to write such software would set a precedent that would apply to other cases and companies. Prosecutors say they are focused on a single phone.
In addition to that fight, which may well reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Apple must ward off attempts to compromise its defenses by hackers eager to get information about its customers, Apple software, and corporate proprietary information.
Viruses, ransomware and other malicious byproducts of the Internet era historically have been a bigger threat to Windows computers and Android phones, but the increased market share of Apple products have made them more popular targets. (Reporting by Joseph Menn, editing by Peter Henderson and Bernard Orr)