Monday, May 29, 2023

US charges ex-Apple engineer with stealing self-driving secrets, fleeing to China

The US authorities have filed charges against a former Apple software engineer for alleged theft of autonomous driving technology secrets from the company and fleeing to China.

According to an indictment in a federal court in the Northern District of California, Apple hired Weibao Wang, 35, to work as a software engineer beginning in March 2016.

Wang, a Chinese citizen, was accused of stealing thousands of documents containing the source code for software and hardware related to Apple’s plans for a self-driving car.

The indictment describes how Wang signed a confidentiality agreement with Apple. And the company provided him with in-person secrecy training that covered the appropriate handling of confidential material.

Wang was assigned to work with a team at Apple that designed and developed hardware and software for autonomous systems, which can have a variety of applications, such as self-driving cars.

According to the US Department of Justice (DoJ), after Wang’s last day at Apple on April 16, 2018, Apple representatives reviewed access logs documenting historical activity on Apple’s network.

“Apple identified Wang as having accessed large amounts of sensitive proprietary and confidential information in the days leading up to his departure from Apple,” the DoJ said in a statement.

Law enforcement agencies searched Wang’s Mountain View residence in California and discovered “large quantities of data taken from Apple prior to his departure”.

The indictment describes six categories of trade secrets that Wang allegedly stole, or attempted to steal, and charges him with one count for each category.

Wang left San Francisco for mainland China hours after law enforcement executed a search warrant at his apartment.

Wang faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine in the amount of $250,000 (or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the scheme) for each count of theft or attempted theft of trade secrets, according to the DoJ.


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