A former Apple engineer would have stolen confidential company documents related to the development of technology for its autonomous car, the US Department of Justice reported on Tuesday. After stealing this information, the former employee of the apple firm had tried to flee to China to give that data to another company in the sector in that country.
“The stolen code is alleged to be trade secrets used by US companies to develop self-driving cars and advanced automated manufacturing equipment,” said Matt Olsen, Attorney General for Homeland Security, in a statement.
The engineer was identified as Weibao Wang, a 35-year-old man who started working for Apple in 2016. The following year, he signed for a Chinese company that develops autonomous cars. However, it took him about four months to inform the apple company about his new job.
By then, Wang had already stolen thousands of documents containing the source code for software and hardware related to Apple's plans for a self-driving car. Among other issues, tracking systems, driving behavior models and other complex technology, key to the construction of this type of vehicle, are detailed.
Few people know this information, considered confidential. According to the indictment, in April 2018, only about 2,700 Apple employees - 2% of the workforce - had access to the databases from which Wang allegedly stole the information.
The US Department of Justice charges this man with six separate counts of theft of trade secrets. If he is extradited and convicted, he could face up to ten years in prison for each charge, Reuters reports.
Wang's case is one of five announced by US authorities, which have created a task force to counter efforts to illicitly acquire US technology by nations including Russia and China. This is the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, an interagency group led by the Departments of Justice and Commerce, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, in charge of enforcing the law.
“Strike Force's mission is to prevent foreign adversaries from obtaining critical advanced technologies. We have established 14 local cells throughout the country”, said this person in charge.
Along with the Wang case and the Apple document theft, the US announced four other similar cases: “The cases, which were brought by the US Attorneys Offices in association with the Homeland Security Division , span a variety of emerging technologies and malicious actors.”