New case of industrial espionage on the highly competitive sector of the autonomous car. Saturday 7 July, a former engineer at Apple has been arrested by the FBI, the american federal police, the airport of San José (California), as he was about to take a plane to China. He is alleged to have downloaded confidential documents and potentially transmit it to his new employer, a start-up automobile chinese.
Xiaolang Zhang had been hired by the company from Cupertino in December 2015, within the project of the vehicle without the driver. He was working on loaded printed circuits to analyze the data collected by the radars and the cameras. According to the indictment, he admitted the facts alleged against him, first in front of the leaders of Apple, and then against the police officers. In pre-trial detention, he faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $ 250 000 (215 000 euros).
The facts date back to April. In paternity leave, Mr. Zhang travels to China. On his return, he informed Apple that he wishes to resign to return to live in his home country with his sick mother. But he confesses also that a new job is there waiting already, in Xiaopeng Motors, a manufacturer of electric cars, known under the name of X Motors in the United States. Finding his explanation to be ” evasive “, his manager then alerts the teams of computer security.
Thousands of searches and downloads
By analyzing the computer and two smartphones professional engineer, the safety of Apple discover an activity to be abnormally high during the previous days : several thousands of searches and downloads of files containing trade secrets on the prototypes and the self-sustaining technologies. Cctv cameras reveal that Mr. Zhang, visited a few days earlier, in a laboratory…