Alleged Apple Car spy also may have possessed secret missile file

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Alleged Apple Car spy may have also had stolen secret missile file
Discovery turns this from an industrial espionage case into a potential national security one.
Photo: Tyler Nienhouse/Flickr CC

The ex-Apple Car engineer charged with stealing confidential files from Cupertino apparently had something else of interest to U.S. prosecutors: a classified file from the Patriot missile program.

This turns what was previously a corporate espionage case into a potential national security one. Jizhong Chen was arrested by the FBI in January. At the time, he supposedly was trying to flee to China with details of Apple’s super-secret self-driving car project.

Investigators found the Patriot missile file while searching his home. It belonged to another of his ex-employers, defense contractor Raytheon. The government says the discovery warrants additional close scrutiny of Chen.

The Raytheon document dates back to 2011. It was so secret that it was not “permitted to be maintained outside of Department of Defense secured locations.” Alleged spy Chen apparently held onto it illegally for eight years. He also possessed information relating to previous employers, authorities said.

Chen is currently awaiting trial on charges that he collected photos, manuals and schematics relating to Apple’s self-driving car project. He reportedly planned to take all the info to a Chinese electric car manufacturer. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently free on $500,000 bail.

Alleged Apple Car spies

This is the second time a Chinese worker has been caught allegedly trying to steal Apple’s self-driving car tech. Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang allegedly downloaded blueprints for Cupertino’s self-driving car circuit board.

Zhang supposedly told Apple he planned to join a Chinese self-driving car startup, Xiaopeng Motors, shortly before booking his flight. Police arrested him at San Jose International Airport as he attempted to flee with the stolen files to China.

Apple reportedly started investigating Jizhong Chen after another employee saw him taking photos in a sensitive workspace. According to a January report from NBC Bay Area, Apple’s security team found thousands of confidential files — including manuals, schematics and diagrams — on his computer. They also found hundreds of photos taken inside Apple’s offices.

We’ll keep you up to date on what happens with this case moving forward.

Source: Bloomberg