Today, the DOJ's Disruptive Technology Strike Force Indicted a former Apple engineer for stealing Autonomous Vehicle source code
Today the DOJ published a press release that covered five cases as part of recently launched Disruptive Technology Strike Force. The Disruptive Technology Strike Force is co-led by the Departments of Justice and Commerce to counter efforts by hostile nation-states to illicitly acquire sensitive U.S. technology to advance their authoritarian regimes and facilitate human rights abuses. The Strike Force’s work has led to the unsealing of charges against multiple defendants in five cases accused of crimes including export violations, smuggling and theft of trade secrets.
One of the cases covered relates to Weibao Wang, a software engineer that worked at Apple from 2016 to 2018. The DOJ charged former software engineers with stealing software and hardware source code from U.S. tech companies in order to market it to Chinese competitors.
The formal press release issued today states that "a federal court in the Northern District of California unsealed an indictment of former Apple Incorporated (Apple) employee Weibao Wang, 35, formerly of Mountain View, California for charges related to his alleged theft and attempted theft of trade secrets in connection with a scheme to access, download, and steal Apple technology related to autonomous systems.
According to the indictment, Apple hired Wang to work as a software engineer beginning in March 2016. The indictment describes how Wang signed a confidentiality agreement with Apple. The indictment further states that Apple provided Wang with in-person secrecy training that covered the appropriate handling of confidential material and established rules prohibiting the transfer and transmission of the company’s intellectual property without Apple’s consent. Wang was assigned to work with a team at Apple that designed and developed hardware and software for autonomous systems, which can have a variety of applications, such as self-driving cars.
According to the indictment, in November 2017, Wang signed a letter accepting an offer of full-time employment as a Staff Engineer with the U.S.-based subsidiary of a company headquartered in the PRC. The parent company is described in the indictment as “COMPANY ONE” and allegedly was working to develop self-driving cars. The indictment alleges Wang waited more than four months after signing the new employment agreement before informing Apple that he was resigning.
After Wang’s last day at Apple on April 16, 2018, Apple representatives reviewed access logs documenting historical activity on Apple’s network. Apple identified Wang as having accessed large amounts of sensitive proprietary and confidential information in the days leading up to his departure from Apple.
The indictment describes the June 27, 2018, search by law enforcement of Wang’s Mountain View residence and the discovery of large quantities of data taken from Apple prior to his departure. Wang was present during the search and told agents he had no plans to travel. Nevertheless, Wang purchased a one-way plane ticket from San Francisco International Airport to Guangzhou, China and boarded a flight that night.
The indictment describes six categories of trade secrets that Wang allegedly stole, or attempted to steal, and charges him with one count for each category.
Wang faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine in the amount of $250,000 (or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the scheme) for each count of theft or attempted theft of trade secrets.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sloan Heffron and Marissa Harris are prosecuting the case. Within the National Security Division, this matter is being handled by Brendan Geary of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section."
Beyond the DOJ's official press release, CNBC's report added that "Wang has been charged with six separate counts involving the theft or attempted theft of Apple’s 'entire autonomy source code,' tracking systems, behavior planning for autonomous systems, and descriptions of the hardware that was behind the systems."
For naysayers who don't believe that Apple's Project Titan is real, I think that Apple catching three Chinese Nationals stealing their autonomous vehicle technology and source code to advance Chinese vehicle companies would prove their skepticism to be futile.