Those Who Can Design, Those Who Can’t Steal
Technology companies are facing a crisis when it comes to protecting proprietary products and intellectual property—especially when it comes to workers who are from China. Weibao Wang 35 formerly with Apple is being charged with theft according to a recent piece from gizmodo.com.
Wang is just the latest engineer who worked for an American company that has taken secrets in manufacturing back to China where he is currently in hiding. The U.S. Department of Justice has charged a former Apple software engineer for allegedly stealing or attempting to steal technology for at least four months before handing in his resignation from the company.
Wang started working for Apple’s annotation team in 2016 and was given “broad access” to company databases that only 2,700 of Apple’s 135,000 employees had access to, according to the indictment. He worked for the company for one year before handing in his resignation notice in April 2018. During his exit interview, Wang did not inform his supervisor of his plans moving forward.
It’s Just Too Easy
Fleeing to China to avoid prosecution for stealing intellectual property doesn’t necessarily keep the thieves safe. Wang is the third former Apple employee facing charges for allegedly stealing autonomous trade data and supplying it to China. His crime comes after Xiaolang Zhang eventually pleaded guilty last year as part of a plea agreement to stealing trade secrets from Apple’s car division.
Jizhong Chen, another former employee who worked as a hardware developer engineer on Apple’s autonomous vehicles project in 2018, is now facing federal charges for allegedly stealing sensitive information and providing it to China in 2019. Chen previously pleaded not guilty.
Wang Faces Charges
Wang is charged with six separate counts for his alleged role in stealing or attempting to steal Apple’s data including the entire autonomy source code, tracking for an autonomous system, behavior planning for autonomous systems, hardware descriptions, architecture design for autonomous systems, and the motion planner for an autonomous system. If extradited from China and convicted, Wang faces 10 years in prison for each count.
The idea that China would agree to extradite Wang is absurd. He already had a new job waiting for him in China months before he boarded the plane to leave America. But an investigation later found that in late November 2017, more than four months before he handed in his notice, Wang signed an acceptance letter for a full-time staff engineer position at a Chinese-based company.
One month after Wang had left Apple, company representatives found that Wang had accessed databases containing sensitive and confidential information relating to its autonomous systems’ software in the months preceding his departure from the company, the indictment says.
His indictment was too little too late. When authorities searched Wang’s home, he reportedly assured them that he had no plans to leave the country, but was found to have purchased a one-way plane ticket to Guangzhou, China from San Francisco International Airport later that day.
The flight departed at approximately 11:55 p.m. that night. He made a clean getaway.
read more at gizmodo.com