Feds arrest Apple employee for stealing self-driving project secrets

Feds arrest Apple employee for stealing self-driving project secrets

The criminal complaint says Zhang was hired to develop software and hardware for Apple's autonomous vehicle project, where he designed and tested circuit boards to analyze sensor data.

Mr. Zhang's case will go before a judge in Santa Clara County, California and while the maximum penalties are indeed severe for a guy who just had a kid, we'd be unsurprised to see Apple push for those maximum sentences, given the amount of data that Zhang made off with.

Agents learned he had purchased a "last-minute" round-trip airline ticket for China on July 7 and arrested Zhang at the airport.

In April, Zhang took paternity leave from Apple and on return informed his supervisor that he would return to China to take care of his ailing mother. He was subsequently fired, she said. According to a tweet from Henry K. Lee, he stole the autonomous vehicle trade secrets while on paternity leave. The crackdown is aimed at China's investment in new-energy vehicles, robotics and aerospace, interests the Trump administration has viewed as a threat to economic and national security, according to people familiar with the plans. During this period, Zhang took circuit boards and a Linux server from the self-driving auto hardware labs.

Apple has been chiseling away at various angles on the self-driving problem for a few years now. Given the fact that even more technical details could come out at trial, "that's striking in its own right" and shows the importance Apple places on protecting its technology, he said. During the meeting, he also told a supervisor that he was joining Chinese electric auto startup XMotors. The self-driving space is exceptionally competitive, with dozens of companies across the world trying to take the lead in the burgeoning field.

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.

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Apple, after going through Zhang's network activity and devices that he gave back to the company while leaving, found that he accessed confidential information that included prototypes as well.

The BBC quotes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said that the data taken by Zhang included "engineering schematics, technical reference manuals, and technical reports", and includes a 25-page "blueprint" for a self-driving vehicle circuit board.

"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", an Apple representative told TechCrunch.

"We're working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions", Apple said in a statement.

Apple told the FBI about the data taken by Zhang, and in a June 27 interview with federal investigators, the former employee admitted to everything that he had told Apple.

Apple's Project Titan used to be the talk of the town not too long ago, but it has since died down out of the rumor mill's routine.

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