Google Secrets Heist: Ex-Engineer Charged for AI Espionage!

A former Google engineer has been hit with federal charges for allegedly snatching up trade secrets linked to artificial intelligence and aiming to hand them over to China. The San Francisco grand jury brought the hammer down on Linwei Ding, also known as Leon Ding, with four counts of swiping trade secrets on Wednesday. The charges claim that Ding swiped the goods and other hush-hush info from Google’s networks, stashed them in a personal account, and had covert connections with Chinese companies.

The bigwigs at the Department of Justice are not having it. “The Justice Department will not stand for the swiping of artificial intelligence and other nifty technologies that could jeopardize our national security,” ranted Attorney General Merrick Garland. “In this scenario, we’re saying the defendant pinched artificial intelligence-related trade secrets from Google while also secretly doing business with two companies based in China. We’re going to fiercely guard our precious technologies from ending up in the clutches of the wrong people.”

According to the DOJ, the loot included the secret sauce of Google’s supercomputer data centers, which prop up machine learning and host the models fueling AI chatbots. Ding, hailing from China, hopped aboard in 2019 and had a hand in building the data centers, giving him a backstage pass to the company’s classified materials. The former staffer sneakily uploaded trade secrets from Google’s databases in 2022 onto his personal account. Meanwhile, he was getting cozy emails from the CEO of a fledgling AI company in China, sweetening the pot by offering him the role of Chief Technology Officer. Ding even jaunted over to China from Oct. 2022 to March 2023, rubbing elbows with investors to raise money for the company. He strutted around as the CTO, boasting a 20% slice of the company’s pie, as per the indictment.

But wait, there’s more! Ding also started his own AI company and took the reins as CEO. He used his inside knowledge from Google to talk up his company, all while keeping hush about his not-so-legal acquisition of trade secrets. Google didn’t get wind of Ding’s shady side gigs until December 2023. The search engine then slammed the door on Ding’s access to its systems, combed through his history, and found the smoking gun, according to the indictment.

The fallen engineer was nabbed in Newark on Wednesday. He’s looking at a maximum penalty of 10 years in the slammer and a hefty fine for each theft. The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco has gone after a number of cases linked to snagging intellectual property, including three ex-Apple engineers accused of swiping secrets from the company’s self-driving car hustle.

Written by Staff Reports

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