Busted: Apple silicon guys downloading gigabytes on their way out the door

From Ethan Baron’s “Apple claims ‘stealth mode’ startup poached engineers who took chip secrets” posted Wednesday in TechXplore:

Apple has filed a lawsuit against a Mountain View, California startup called Rivos it claims poached employees who took chip-design secrets on their way out of the Cupertino iPhone giant…

Apple claims its forensic analysis of the devices the employees returned to it before leaving show they took the information…

The suit… names two former Apple employees alleged to have taken secret data with them to Rivos. Bhasi Kaithamana worked at Apple in Austin, Texas, for almost 8 years as an engineer managing chip design, according to the suit. Apple claims Kaithamana accepted a job offer from Rivos between July 20 and August 9 last year, then asked Apple for a vacation day August 10.

“During his day off, Mr. Kaithamana created a new folder on his Apple-issued computer and began copying over Apple documents containing proprietary and trade secret information,” the suit alleged. Although Kaithamana resigned from Apple on August 13, “he worked to continue amassing a collection of Apple’s proprietary and trade secret (chip) files until the day before he left Apple on August 16,” the suit claimed. The folder Kaithamana named “APPLE-WORK-DOCS” contained thousands of Apple documents, and he copied files onto an external storage drive, Apple alleged…

The other former Apple employee, Ricky Wen of San Jose, worked at Apple for almost 14 years as a chip-design engineer, according to the suit. Rivos approached Wen about moving to Apple in June or July last year and he accepted a job offer for a position similar to the one he had at Apple on July 23, the suit claimed.

Within a week, Wen, also known as Wen Shih-Chieh, had transferred about 390 gigabytes of data—including trade secrets concerning past, current and unreleased chips—from his Apple-issued computer to a personal hard drive, and Apple found that he had accessed more chip-design secrets the day before he left Apple and just before a hard drive was connected to his company-issued computer, the suit alleged. He also transferred hundreds of files to his personal Google drive, including chip-design diagrams, and also kept trade secrets on his iCloud Drive after he left Apple, the suit claimed…

“Several of the employees deleted information or wiped their Apple devices entirely to try to cover their tracks,” the suit claimed.

My take: Eager to hear more about how Apple’s conducts forensic analyses of employee devices.

9 Comments

  1. Thomas Nash said:
    Re:Eager to hear more about how Apple’s conducts forensic analyses of employee devices.

    Easy peezy,

    Erasing data, without taking extreme measures of writing 0s and 1s over the data, just erases the directory entries. The data stays on the disk. The extreme measures take many hours, up to a day or more, and that time was not available to these departing employees.

    If one of your disks is not backed up and becomes normally unreadable, there are several services that will recover your data for fees measured in thousands of $. Clearly Apple Forensics (and the FBI) have those capabilities.

    9
    May 4, 2022
    • Roger Schutte said:
      Ditto on what Thomas said about securely deleting files but catching the guys might have been even easier given that Apple likely requires Time Machine to do automatic backups of the laptops to a networked server. In that Time Machine keeps snapshots that show file changes and how MacOS + APFS works the ‘deleted’ files were probably still sitting on disk ready to be restored to view. (If you use Time Machine for auto backups, you will have Purgeable files when you select Mac HD disk and do a Command-I.) Purgeable files are what you’ve deleted but Time Machine keeps on disk for restoring.

      3
      May 4, 2022
  2. Fred Stein said:
    Gives new meaning to ‘stealth mode’ startup.

    These two left Apple, leaving options behind. There must have been a really big incentive to turn to crime and take such risks. Who else in the startup knew? Or was the startup just a shell to hold stolen IP? Beagle Boys.

    More shoes to drop.

    3
    May 4, 2022
    • John Butt said:
      They also left their credibility behind and may have trashed the startup’s

      1
      May 5, 2022
      • Fred Stein said:
        Yes. Apple is suing Rivos as well, making it tough to raise funding and higher top talent.

        There are other high performance computing startups and companies vying for talent and/or funding.

        0
        May 5, 2022
    • Steven Philips said:
      Fred: Beagle Boys! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      0
      May 5, 2022
  3. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Loyalty just isn’t what it used to be these days. Rivos isn’t off to a great start.

    3
    May 4, 2022

Leave a Reply