Engineer admits to stealing trade secrets from Apple

Former Apple employee faces up to 10 years in prison, $250K fine for stealing Project Titan trade secrets

When Zhang returned from paternity leave, he informed his boss that he was moving to China to work for Xmotors.

Apple, after going through Zhang's network activity and devices that he gave back to the company while leaving, found that he accessed confidential information that included prototypes as well.

The project that was considered a "closely-guarded secret", according to the complaint.

According to the supervisor, Zhang had "been evasive" during the meeting between the two, and, as such, made a decision to contact Apple's New Product Security Team, which launched an internal investigation.

Zhang was hired by Apple in December of 2015 to be part of a team developing hardware and software for self-driving vehicles, a project that was a "closely-guarded secret", according to the complaint filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A lawyer provisionally appointed to represent Zhang did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

However, Apple began to suspect Zhang was stealing company trade secrets in April, when he told his supervisor he was resigning.

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"Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously", the California-based internet titan said in response to an AFP query.

The majority of Zhang's network activity "consisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from the various confidential database applications", according to the complaint.

The FBI searched Zhang's home on June 22 and FBI agents arrested Zhang at Terminal B of Mineta San Jose International Airport on Saturday. Shortly before this meeting and while on leave, authorities say Zhang had taken a trip to China with his family. Zhang told agents he meant to get job at Xmotors, a startup working on electric and self-driving vehicles, and that he had placed 40GB of Apple's data onto his wife's laptop.

In a statement, Apple said: "We're working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions".

But he also said that he had downloaded the data, because he had "an interest in platforms and wanted to study the data on his own". A complete evaluation of the files is ongoing.

"Apple also goes to great lengths to communicate the importance of secrecy to its employees", the complaint adds.

Effective May 5, Zhang was "voluntarily terminated", and according to the complaint, said he is employed by XMotors at its Mountain View, Calif., office. At the airport, Zhang was intercepted by federal agents and "arrested without incident". According to Reuters, Zhang's arraignment in the USA is set for July 27 and he has yet to enter a plea. Apple has brought criminal charges against Zhang, and he could face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

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