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Former Apple Employee Arrested For Trying To Steal Secrets On Self-Driving Car
By Izza Sofia, 13 Jul 2018
Image via rarrarorro / Shutterstock.com
US federal authorities have charged an ex-Apple employee with stealing trade secrets.
Former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang had downloaded a blueprint plan involving Apple’s self-driving car concept to his personal laptop, before attempting to board a plane traveling to China.
Zhang was planning to work for a self-driving startup company in China. He had bought a last-minute ticket to the country after retrieving the circuit board plans for the self-driving car.
Unfortunately, Zhang did not manage to fly out of the country and was arrested at the San Jose airport on 7 July at a security checkpoint.
Apple is working with authorities on the issue and will ensure that those involved will be “held accountable for their actions.”
According to the criminal complaint, Zhang was hired by Apple to develop software and hardware intended for Apple’s autonomous vehicle project, and was intricately involved in the design and testing of circuit boards to analyze sensor date.
After welcoming a child, Zhang took paternity leave to visit China. Upon his return, Zhang informed his supervisors of his resignation and intention to head back to China to work with smart car company Xiaopeng Motors.
After departing from Apple, Zhang worked at XMotors—a wholly-owned US subsidiary of Xiaopeng Motors.
According to Reuters, Apple’s security officials discovered that Zhang had conducted searches on its secret databases after speaking to his supervisor. Furthermore, despite being on paternity leave, Zhang visited Apple’s campus on 28 April, where he took circuit boards and a computer server from a self-driving car hardware lab. His Apple co-workers had apparently also shown Zhang a “proprietary chip.”
It is unclear if the the downloaded data was meant specifically for smart cars, but some of the files that Zhang had access to were only limited to 2,700 of Apple’s 135,000 employees. Under the pretence of a new position within Apple, Zhang said that he took the hardware from the lab as it would be beneficial for him in the new position.
However, his act of downloading the 25-page secret blueprint onto his personal computer was enough for investigators to press him with an “instant criminal charge.”
FBI agents conducted a search warrant on 27 June at Zhang’s house, where they discovered that he had bought the last-minute round-trip ticket to China for 7 July and subsequently apprehended him at the airport.
[via Reuters, opening image via rarrarorro / Shutterstock.com]
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