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Second Apple staffer charged with stealing self-driving car secrets

WE’D BLOW A GASKET if details surrounding our INQmobile were nicked, so we can understand why a Chinese Apple staffer has been charged with stealing secrets related to Cupertino’s self-driving car project.

The FBI levelled charges at the Apple worker, Jizhong Chen, reported NBC, after he made off with information about Apple’s so-called Project Titan driverless car work.

Chen could face up to 10 years in the clink for such thievery and even be hit with a fine topping out at $250,000. Sheesh, crime doesn’t always pay.

The alleged secrets thief reportedly carried out his pilfering while he worked as a hardware developer last summer and was one of 5,000 Apple employees scooped up to work on Project Titan. Chen also worked directly on the project so was in a good position to nab some info.

Chen’s fellow workers spotted him snapping pics of the project’s workspace and presumably dobbed him in. And the feds said that Chen told Apple’s global security team that he’d backed up his work computer onto a personal machine and hard drive.

As such, the charging document noted that Chen had “over two thousand files containing confidential and proprietary Apple material, including manuals, schematics, and diagrams”. These documents contained a deluge of photos computer screens with sensitive info on them, some dating back as far as June 2018.

By snapping pics of computer screens, Chen apparently avoided detection by Apple’s internal monitoring systems.

The FBI noted that Chen had been put on a performance improvement plan in December, which would suggest he wasn’t too happy at the company and was potentially at risk of being fired. Chen had also applied for two other jobs outsidApple’sple;s corporate confines, with one job being at a Chinese autonomous vehicles company, Xiaopeng Motors.

One could postulate that a grumpy Chen might have pilfered Project Titan secrets and then shared them with another driverless car maker, including one in China. It’s worth noting the US and China aren’t really getting along when it comes to trade and intellectual property.

However, before Chen could bring such a speculated plan into action, the FBI nabbed him the day before he was due to fly to China to see his father who was reportedly ill.

Chen and his lawyer haven’t responded to the charges, but Apple affectivity towed its hard-line on secret leaking.

“Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our IP very seriously,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told The Verge in an email. “We are working with authorities on this matter and are referring all questions to the FBI.”

One might think that Apple’s previous tense dealings with the FBI would have seen it want to deal with Chen internally, perhaps blinding him with the power of a thousand iPhone camera flashes to punish him for setting his eyes on select info.

We jest of course, but given Apple is militant at keeping its secrets secret, who knows what it could do to blabbermouth workers. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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Founder and Editor-in-Chief of 'Professional Hackers India'. Technology Evangelist, Security Analyst, Cyber Security Expert, PHP Developer and Part time hacker.

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