Ex-Apple engineer accused of stealing self-driving car tech trade secrets

The US Department of Justice said on Tuesday it charged a former Apple Inc engineer with trying to steal the company’s technology related to autonomous systems, including self-driving cars, and then fleeing to China. .

The case was among five announced Tuesday aimed at countering efforts to illegally acquire American technology by countries like Russia and China. The actions were the first announced by a “strike force” formed in February in part to ward off sensitive technology from foreign adversaries.

The former Apple engineer, identified as Weibao Wang, 35, previously resided in Mountain View, Calif., and was hired by Apple in 2016, according to an April indictment released Tuesday.

In 2017, he took a job in the United States with a Chinese company working on developing self-driving cars before resigning from Apple, but waited about four months before telling Apple about his new job, according to the deed. ‘charge.

After his last day at Apple, the company discovered he had accessed large amounts of proprietary data in the days before he left, the US Department of Justice said.

Federal agents searched his home in June 2018 and found “large amounts” of Apple data, he said. The same night the search was conducted, Wang was able to fly from San Francisco International Airport to Guangzhou, China on a one-way ticket.

The Justice Department said in a statement that Wang allegedly stole or attempted to steal six categories of trade secrets. Each faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of US$250,000.

The department did not identify the company that offered Wang the job. He has been identified in the media since leaving the United States as the head of automated driving at Jidu, an electric vehicle company controlled by Baidu and co-funded by Chinese automaker Geely.

Project Titan has been in the works for a long time

Apple’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have gone unevenly since 2014, when the company began designing a vehicle from the ground up. A December report said Apple had postponed the car’s planned launch. Reports filed with the state of California show that Apple is testing vehicles on state roads.

Apple declined to comment on the matter.

“We remain vigilant in enforcing U.S. laws to stop the flow of sensitive technology to our foreign adversaries,” Matt Olsen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said at a press conference. . “We are committed to doing everything possible to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the department’s second official, said in February that the “strike force” was a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Commerce to protect U.S. technology from foreign adversaries and other threats to the national security. Monaco said at the time that the United States would “retaliate against adversaries who attempt to siphon off our most advanced technology and attack tomorrow’s national security threats today.”

Two of the cases announced on Tuesday involved the dismantling of alleged supply networks created to help Russian military and intelligence services obtain sensitive technology. Two cases, including Wang’s, were linked to former software engineers who allegedly stole source code from US tech companies to market to Chinese competitors.

The fifth case concerned a Chinese network created to supply Iran with materials used in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

Last year, the Commerce Department imposed new export controls on advanced computer components and semiconductors as part of a move to prevent China from acquiring certain chips.

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