A new strike force co-led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Commerce Department made an impact Tuesday when charges against a former Apple engineer for theft and attempted theft of trade secrets were included as part of its first enforcement actions.
The Disruptive Technology Strike Force, a collaboration between the DOJ’s National Security Division and Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, laid the groundwork for the indictment of Weibao Wang, who is accused of stealing Apple technology related to autonomous systems and fleeing to China with that intel to work for a competitor. Wang faces six charges related to the six categories of trade secrets he allegedly stole or attempted to steal, according to the agency.
The case was one of five announced by the DOJ as the first batch to include the involvement of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, which was formed in February. The strike force works to protect U.S. critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries.
“These cases demonstrate the breadth and complexity of the threats we face, as well as what is at stake,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen in remarks. “They show our ability to accelerate investigations and surge our collective resources to defend against these threats.”
In the Wang case, the engineer, during his time at Apple from 2016-18, was found to have “accessed large amounts of sensitive proprietary and confidential information in the days leading up to his departure from Apple,” according to the DOJ. Law enforcement officials discovered the data during a search of his residence, after which he told the authorities he wouldn’t depart the country. That night, he purchased a one-way ticket to China with the stolen information in tow, the DOJ alleged.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
The other four enforcement actions announced by the DOJ included another case of a software engineer allegedly stealing source code from two former U.S. employers to market to Chinese competitors, two cases involving the disruption of alleged procurement networks created to help the Russian military obtain sensitive technology, and a case regarding a Chinese procurement network established to allegedly provide Iran with materials used in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.