A former Apple engineer has been hit with federal trade secrets theft charges after trying to lift Cupertino’s car tech on behalf of Alibaba.
The California Northern District Court will hear the case (PDF) of Xiaolang Zhang, an engineer who in 2015 was hired to work on the Cupertino music seller’s ultra-secretive self-driving car project. He was designing and testing circuit boards before leaving in April of this year to join an Alibaba and Foxconn-backed Chinese startup called Xiaopeng Motors.
According to prosecutors, Zhang took two circuit boards and a server as well as copies of files and information from two databases containing the details of Apple’s worst kept secret since the iPhone with the intent of moving it with him to China.
The theft was said to have taken place between April 28 and April 30, the day Zhang announced his resignation from Apple. Prosecutors believe that during that stretch, Zhang lifted both the hardware and data from Cupertino headquarters with the aim of taking the information to his new employer.
Apparently, Zhang was less than discrete in his efforts, making it fairly easy for Apple security to catch him.
“Apple’s database security team found that in the days just prior to April 30, 2018, Zhang’s Apple network activity increased exponentially compared to the prior two years of his employment,” the criminal complaint reads.
“The majority of his activity consisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from the confidential database applications.”
According to the South China Morning Post, Zhang was lifted by cops earlier this week when he attempted to fly out of San Jose Airport. Xiaopeng Motors is said to be looking to wash its hands of the matter, denying all knowledge of Zhang’s plans. ®