A former employee of Apple has been charged in federal court with stealing company secrets, authorities say. The charges were first reported by The Mercury News.
Xiaolang Zhang, a hardware engineer, was charged in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. He was arrested while trying to board a last-minute flight to China at San Jose International Airport in California. He had purchased a round-trip ticket to Beijing, with a final destination of Hangzhou, according to reports.
Zhang began working for Apple in December 2015 on the autonomous-driving team at Apple. According to the company, he was granted broad access to information contained in confidential databases.
In April 2018, Zhang went on paternity leave. Upon his return he informed Apple that he was leaving the company to return to China to look after his mother who was ill. He also told a supervisor that he had accepted a position at XMotors, a Chinese company that builds electric cars and specializes in driverless technology.
When Zhang turned in two company-issued iPhones and a laptop, Apple’s tech security team discovered that he had downloaded a large amount of information from the confidential databases. Security cameras also caught Zhang present in Apple’s software and hardware laboratories while he was purportedly on leave, a violation of company policy.
Zhang at first denied accessing the labs during his leave, but when presented with the camera footage confessed. His wife’s laptop, which Zhang consented to authorities examining, showed that 60% of the data contained on it was “highly problematic.” Zhang admitted to “air-dropping” – transferring data wirelessly between Apple devices – information to his wife’s computer from his company machines.
Zhang was taken into custody on Saturday without incident.
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