Former Google Employee Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets – Arrested In California

Former Google Employee Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets – Arrested In California
  • Former Google employee Linwei Ding has been accused of stealing trade secrets concerning AI and sending them to Chinese companies. 
  • The theft reportedly began in 2022 and went on for an entire year, up until he resigned in December. 
  • If proven guilty, Ding will be facing up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for every charge.

Former Google Employee Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets – Arrested In California

A former Google employee has been arrested in California for stealing AI secrets. The employee has been identified as Linwei Ding, who also goes by the name Leon Ding, and is being charged with four counts of federal trade secret theft.

If proven guilty, he’ll face up to 10 years in prison and can have to pay up to $250,000 as a fine—for each charge. While he was an employee at Google, he was also allegedly working with two Chinese AI firms.

The Justice Department will not tolerate the theft of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies that could put our national security at risk.Attorney General Merrick Garland

The Attorney General further added that it’s their duty to protect trade secrets developed in America and prevent them from ending up in the wrong hands. It’s also worth noting that a Chinese cyber firm tried hacking government agencies and businesses in February.

Who is Linwei Ding and What Exactly Did He Steal: The Timeline

Linwei Ding is a 38-year-old man from China who was hired by Google in 2019. As an employee at Google, he was responsible for developing the software that was used in Google’s supercomputing data centers.

Due to the nature of his work, he had easy access to sensitive data, including Google’s software models, hardware, and all AI projects and apps that were under his wing.

The whole thing reportedly started when he was offered the position of CTO in a new startup in China called Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology with a pay of around $148,000 per month.

For this role, he not only traveled back to China but also helped the startup raise funds. In return, he was given 20% of the company. On top of that, to conceal his footprints, he asked a coworker at Google to use his badge so that he could create the illusion that he was still in the United States.

Then within a year, he opened his own tech company called Shanghai Zhisuan Technology. While the details of the timeline are unclear for now, it’s believed that he began stealing Google data around 2022.

Linwei allegedly continued stealing for over a year, managing to copy 500 documents with confidential information during this period.

The reason experts think there’s a correlation between his startup and the data theft is that while promoting his company, he said that they have experience with Google’s ten-thousand-card computational power platform—and that all they had to do was replicate it and then develop it further.

Once when he was in China, Linwei was questioned by authorities at Google about uploading company data to his personal Google account. However, those questions were dismissed after he explained that it was only evidence of the work he had done during his tenure.

What Google didn’t know then is that Linwei would resign on December 26 and take a one-way flight from San Francisco to Beijing. A few days later, Google learned about his involvement with the Chinese company.

They then investigated his activities and that’s when they found he had been stealing Google’s data, following which the case was immediately referred to the FBI.

Read more: Chinese hackers plan to wreak havoc in the US, warns the FBI

In response to this incident, Google representatives said that they take trade secrets very seriously, so such blatant disregard for the rules would not be tolerated. At the time of writing, a lawyer hasn’t been appointed for the accused.

This incident comes as another blow to the already strained relationship between the US and China. The Biden administration is concerned over the growing number of cyber threats from their biggest rival. For example, only last week the US government launched a probe into Chinese smart cars which are now looked upon as a national threat.

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