All tech bigwigs have strict rules when hiring for their top-secret projects. However, until today, none of them could avoid data leaks. This also refers to Apple. Recently, CNBC reported that a former Apple engineer had pled guilty to stealing trade secrets from the Cupertino-based company. In a San Jose federal court, Xiaolang Zhang said that he had stolen Apple’s Project Titan trade secrets. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In fact, he has done everything to betray himself. In 2018, the Apple engineer took parental leave from Apple and visited China during this time. When the vacation was due to end, Zhang informed Apple that he would not return.
What’s stranger, he remained in China and joined XMotors, a Chinese-based startup developing autonomous technology for cars. All these meant odd to Apple, and it decided to prompt an investigation by Apple’s New Product Security Team. Particularly, the company began tracking his network activity and Apple devices.
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How Did Apple Engineer Steal Data?
As for his activity at Apple, Zhang worked on multiple products, such as designing and testing circuit boards that can analyze data from various sensors. However, the most important project he worked on was Project Titan, which included multiple self-driving car technologies.
It turned out Zhang had downloaded tons of files from Apple’s servers before his departure. Among them, Apple New Product Security Team found a 25-page document with engineering schematics of a circuit board for an autonomous vehicle. Plus, there were documents concerning prototype and testing hardware.
However, he didn’t act smart. Zhang transferred around 24GB of “highly problematic” data to his wife’s laptop via AirDrop. Even worse, he also took circuit boards and a server from the company’s autonomous vehicle lab. Did he think no one would notice the theft?
In 2018, the company indicted Zhang, but he didn’t plead guilty. Now, as the source claims, he did. The verdict will be issued in November. Most likely, he is facing up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Xpeng Motors denied any relation with the case.