Recently, an Apple engineer was accused by the FBI of stealing information about the company’s autonomous vehicle program. Jizhong Chen has been charged in a Federal court in San Jose of stealing private company information. Apple requested to see Chen’s personal computer and found over 100 photos of the building housing the project and also according to the affidavit, “over two thousand files containing confidential and proprietary Apple material, including manuals, schematics and diagrams.” After reviewing the information found on Chen’s PC, Apple stated that the information would be ‘enormously damaging’ had the information been released.
A couple weeks ago Chen had been reported by another employee taking photographs of the premises who thought it seemed suspicious which led to the report being filed by the FBI. After the information was discovered he told Apple that he was planning on using the information for career advancement. Apple has since suspended the engineer indefinitely. Chen posted his bond of $100,000 cash and is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
What’s even worse is that this is the second time this has happened recently. In July 2018, the FBI charged former Apple employee, Xiaolang Zhang, of stealing a 25-page document revealing designs for the autonomous vehicle project. Zhang is facing the same penalty of prison time and fines as his former coworker, Chen. Does Apple have a serious internal security problem and what should they be doing to avoid this happening again? Is the possible sentence appropriate for the crimes allegedly committed by the two Apple employees?
I think this does not look good for Apple especially directly after the recent FaceTime glitch, which was potentially a major breech of their customer’s privacy. This may leave customers questioning Apple’s ability to keep information private or wondering what else might be wrong with their products.