Former Apple employee arrested after trying to leave country with self-driving car secrets

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Apple employee

One former Apple employee thought he’d make it to China with some fresh self-driving car secrets but that didn’t work out very well.

If you’re an Apple employee you know just how serious the company takes secrecy. Heck, even those of us who aren’t Apple employees know how serious they are about their secrecy. The company famously shunned Gizmodo when the news outlet took its time returning an iPhone prototype found in a bar. The company has also been known to send memos out to employees warning against leaking or sharing secrets.

But, even with all of these measures, leaking and stealing is alive and well. One former Apple employee thought he’d make it to China with some fresh self-driving car secrets — but that didn’t work out very well.  Xiaolang Zhang was a former engineer at Apple and was nabbed by the FBI at San Jose International airport trying to take the secrets to China with him. Zhang was arrested and charged with theft of trade secrets.

The intrigue began months ago. Hired in December 2015 to work on Apple’s project to develop hardware and software for self-driving or autonomous vehicles, Zhang took paternity leave during April and traveled with his family to China, according to the complaint.

Upon his return on April 30, Zhang told his immediate superior he was resigning to move back to China to be closer to mother who was in poor health. Zhang also said he planned to work for XMotors, a Chinese autonomous and electric vehicle startup, which has offices in Silicon Valley.

That set off some alarm bells at Apple, which asked Zhang to turn in two iPhones and a MacBook and then security team began reviewing his network activity, the filing says.

Apple’s investigation found that Zhang on April 28 and 29 had downloaded confidential technical documents about self driving car prototypes, which were subsequently downloaded onto his wife’s laptop, authorities say.

Surveillance footage and badge swipe records also found that Zhang had entered Apple’s autonomous vehicle labs on April 28 and left with a keyboard, some cables and a large box, the complaint chargers. This activity took place at a time when he was on paternity leave, which is against company policy.

The moral of the story here is this: if you’re an Apple employee, contractor, or have any dealings with the company and its property, it’s probably not a good idea to try and steal from them. Not only do they not like it, they have pockets deep enough and arms long enough to find you.

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  Source: USA Today
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