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Former Apple Employee is Arrested For Allegedly Stealing Self-Driving Trade Secrets

By NexChange
Capital Markets

A ex-Apple employee was busted by federal agents as he tried t0 board a plane from San Jose, Calif. to China over the weekend, carrying trade secrets for self-driving cars that he’d allegedly stolen from his former employer, as the Mercury News reports.

Xiaolang Zhang, who worked as a hardware engineer at Apple, was charged in the U.S. District Court of Northern California with allegedly trying to take the trade secrets with him after he’d accepted a job with another company, according to the Mercury News.

Federal agents arrested Zhang on Saturday, as he tried to go through security at Mineta San Jose International Airport, authorities said. He had purchased a last-second round-trip ticket to Beijing, China, with a final destination of Hangzhou, China aboard Hainan Airlines, authorities said.

“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.”

Apple has kept its research and development into self-driving cars “a closely guarded secret,” the Mercury News notes, but “Zhang was granted broad access to confidential internal databases.” The criminal complaint notes that Zhang had gone on paternity leave in April and told Apple once his leave was over that he would be returning to China to care for his ill mother, informing his supervisor that he’d accepted a job with XMotors, a China-based startup “focused on electric automobiles and driverless vehicle technology,” according to the Mercury News.

When Zhang turned in his two company-issued iPhones and his laptop, Apple’s tech security team reviewed the history on his devices and found that his download activity increased dramatically and included information from confidential files, authorities said. Zhang generated 581 rows of user activity on April 28 alone; in the previous month, authorities said, he generated 610 rows.

Authorities said Zhang also admitted that he “air-dropped” information from his devices onto his wife’s personal laptop.

Security cameras also caught Zhang in the software and hardware labs during his paternity leave, which is a violation of Apple’s corporate policy. After first denying that he’d been in the labs during his paternity leave, Zhang later confessed to being there when he was presented with the evidence from the security cameras and admitted to stealing information from the labs.

Photo: Getty iStock

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