Federal prosecutors have charged a former Apple employee with stealing trade secrets from Apple’s self-driving car project and attempting to take them with him to a new job at a Chinese startup. Xiaolang Zhang had worked on Apple’s self-driving car project since 2015. According to the FBI, he “designed and tested circuit boards to analyze sensor data.” But at the end of April, he informed his supervisor that he was quitting, moving to China to be closer to his mother, and that he would be taking a job at a Chinese startup.
The supervisor thought Zhang had been “evasive” during this conversation, so he asked Apple’s security team to look into the situation. They discovered that Zhang’s activity on the Apple network had “increased exponentially” in the days before Zhang announced his departure.
According to the FBI, Zhang downloaded numerous documents from Apple’s network and transferred them to his wife’s personal laptop. The information Zhang took was “largely technical in nature, including engineering schematics, technical reference materials, and technical reports.”