Thursday, 22 August, 2019

Former Apple employee arrested, charged with theft of trade secrets

Former Apple employee arrested, charged with theft of trade secrets Former Apple employee arrested, charged with theft of trade secrets
Emmett Howard | 12 July, 2018, 03:43

In April, Zhang took paternity leave following the birth of a child and travelled with his family to China, according to the complaint filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

As of the dates of Zhang's employment at the firm, around 5,000 employees were authorised to access information about the program, including 2,700 staff with access to secret databases.

The project that was considered a "closely-guarded secret", according to the complaint.

"There is no indication that he has ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors", Jiang said of Zhang. A LinkedIn profile that appears to belong to Zhang says that he joined Apple in December of 2015 but lists him as still working there as a Hardware System Engineer working on a "high-performance computing HW system".

According to a court filing, Zhang worked on Apple's self-driving auto initiative, called "Project Titan", as a member of the Compute Team. Assistant Federal Defender Tamara Crepet, listed in court records as Zhang's attorney, declined to comment on the case. When he returned at the end of the month, he told his supervisor at Apple that he was resigning so he could move back to China to be with his mother, who was in poor health, according to the complaint.

"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", company spokesman Tom Neumayr told Bloomberg in an email.

Authorities arrested Zhang at the San Jose airport on Saturday after he purchased a last-minute plane ticket to China.

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The majority of Zhang's network activity "consisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from the various confidential database applications", according to the complaint.

The technical detail in the complaint "would only have been possible if Apple complied" with investigators, said Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor of law at the University of SC who has studied issues around autonomous vehicles.

Zhang was also caught on surveillance video entering the software and hardware labs of the autonomous vehicle department and leaving with a large box. A complete evaluation of the files is ongoing.

Effective May 5, Zhang was "voluntarily terminated", and according to the complaint, said he is employed by XMotors at its Mountain View, Calif., office.

All evidence was forwarded to the FBI after Apple's Digital Forensic Investigations team discovered that at least 60% of the downloaded data that was transferred over to his wife's computer was problematic. He was arrested on July 7 after going through the security gates at San Jose airport. The flight was scheduled to depart that same day.

Zhang faces a possible 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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