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Former Apple employee charged with stealing trade secrets

12 July 2018

A former Apple employee has been accused of stealing the company's self-driving auto secrets and trying to flee to China with them.

The former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, has been charged with theft of trade secrets, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in San Jose this week. That company is a startup based out of China that is also working on autonomous vehicles.

A statement Wednesday from XMotors said there was no indication that Zhang communicated sensitive information from Apple, the Reuters news agency reported.

However the leak has also raised wider concerns in the industry about tech giants protecting their data from insider breaches, particularly after Tesla also issued a lawsuit against a former employee last month.

A former Apple employee has been arrested for stealing intellectuap property (IP) from Apple's autonomous vehicle project. One former Apple employee is now in hot water over some of that content, especially in light of allegedly not only bringing it out of Apple's walls, but handing it over to a potentially competing company. Apple's work on self-driving cars is extremely secretive; just 2,700 "core" employees have access to the project's databases.

During his resignation, he turned over two iPhones, a MacBook and complied to Apple's intellectual property policy, according to the complaint.

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"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said in an email. "We're working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions". A plea has not yet been filed.

While Apple's complaint does not directly state that the circuit boards in question are for autonomous vehicles, all the variables do point towards this conclusion.

However, after visiting China in April 2018 he told his supervisor he planned to move to the country to work for Xiaopeng Motors.

In April, he left on paternity leave and visited China to be with his family. The mode lets you enter a seven day competition with friends, where you can track both your own and your friends progress, and the victor gets an Apple Watch award.The new fitness modes on the WatchOS include a Yoga mode to track your activity via the heart rate monitor, and a Hiking mode to use your pace and elevation to better determine the number of calories burned.A new watch-to-watch connection, which works over WiFi or cell signal, turns your Apple Watch into a walkie talkie. Zhang worked with Apple since he was hired on with the company back in 2015, and, since then, has been working with Project Titan.

He initially denied going to Apple's labs to take anything.

Authorities said Zhang also admitted that he "air-dropped" information from his devices onto his wife's personal laptop. Zhang explained he had taken the hardware because he thought it would be useful to him on another project.

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But he also said that he had downloaded the data, because he had "an interest in platforms and wanted to study the data on his own".

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. A complete evaluation of the files is ongoing.

Apple shared their evidence with the FBI, and, as such, the bureau has leveled charges against Zhang.

Agents learned he had purchased a "last-minute" round-trip airline ticket for China on July 7 and arrested Zhang at the airport. The flight was scheduled to depart that same day. At the airport, Zhang was intercepted by federal agents and "arrested without incident".

Zhang is scheduled to be arraigned July 27, according to court documents. He is facing a recommended 10 years of imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and three years of supervised release.

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Former Apple employee charged with stealing trade secrets