The FBI successfully apprehended Xiaolang Zhang, a former employee of Apple, at the San Jose International Airport on July 7th for allegedly attempting to flee the country with company trade secrets.
The suspect had reportedly been working with Apple since 2015 on a project related to self-driving vehicles. His position with the company involved designing and testing circuit boards, and he was in very good standing with the company up until recently.
At the end of April, Zhang informed the company that he had decided to return home to China. The supervisor he was speaking with noted that the suspect acted very evasive, so he asked a security team to keep an eye on him. Zhang confirmed to his supervisor that he had plans to begin a new job at an unnamed Chinese startup company.
Apple’s security team immediately noticed a suspicious increase of Zhang’s activity on the Apple network. They informed the FBI who discovered Zhang had been downloading hundreds of files from Apple’s network onto a personal laptop. Reports indicate that most of the data transferred included technical reports and details. Apple’s security team determined the private information was “highly problematic.”
On April 28th, Zhang was caught leaving the autonomous software and hardware labs with cables, a computer keyboard and a large box. He later admitted to taking the items, and he was voluntarily terminated on May 5th.
Before the FBI could make a determination about Zhang’s intentions, the suspect purchased himself a plane ticket to Hangzhou, China. The authorities decided to arrest the suspect before he could potentially flee the country with Apple secrets.