Former Apple employee charged with stealing company trade secrets

Former Apple employee charged with stealing company trade secrets

USA authorities charged a former Apple Inc employee with stealing trade secrets on Monday, accusing him of downloading a blueprint related to a self-driving auto to a personal laptop before trying to flee the country for China, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

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. Though he initially denied being on company property, Zhang, when confronted, admitted he was in Apple's hardware labs and had taken items including two circuit boards and a linux server.

Zhang later admitted to taking circuit boards and a Linux server from the hardware lab, and to transferring some Apple files to his wife's computer, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It was nearly a ideal getaway, but a former Apple employee was captured at the airport just before boarding a flight to China, after apparently stealing some of the tech giant's secret plans for self-driving cars.

Authorities say Zhang admitted to downloading classified files onto his wife's laptop, so he could access them after he turned in his work phone and computer when he resigned. Fewer people, about 2,700 "core employees", have access to the project's databases. When he returned, Zhang informed his supervisor that he was leaving Apple and was going to move to China, where he would be working with a company called XMotors. "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", a company spokesperson told Bloomberg. Zhang explained he had taken the hardware because he thought it would be useful to him on another project.

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"First Tesla, now Apple - as we inch closer to building autonomous cars, along with the programmable complexities that this entails, it's not surprising that employees are increasingly tempted to get their hands on sensitive intellectual property (IP) through software theft", said Jamie Graves, CEO and founder of cyber security startup Zonefox.

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".

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

The nature of the stolen documents also reveals something about Apple's plans. He surrendered at the airport without incident. If those charges lead to a ruling against Zhang, he could face up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. According to Reuters, Zhang's arraignment in the U.S. is set for July 27 and he has yet to enter a plea.

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