Google Engineer Arrested For Stealing AI Secrets For China

According to the indictment, a federal grand jury in San Francisco has arrested Linwei Ding, a Chinese national and Google engineer, for stealing AI secrets for China.

Google Engineer Arrested For Stealing AI Secrets For China 1

A former software engineer for Google has been charged with stealing trade secrets relating to artificial intelligence while working for Chinese rivals looking to obtain an advantage in the battle for AI.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Linwei Ding, a Chinese national also known by the name Leon, with four counts of trade secret theft, each of which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. In his hometown of Newark, California, he was taken into custody on March 6.

According to the indictment, between May 2022 and May 2023, the 38-year-old allegedly stole more than 500 files containing sensitive information. These files included specific details about the software and hardware platforms that allowed Google’s supercomputing data centers to train massive AI models through machine learning.

China’s Ministry of State Security criticizes the CIA for espionage, calling its anti-China campaign hegemonic. The CIA’s history, including controversial actions, has drawn severe criticism.

The indictment stated that a Chinese startup focused on artificial intelligence made an offer for Mr. Ding to become its chief technology officer just a few weeks after he started his criminal activities. The remuneration for the post was approximately $14,800 per month, with an annual bonus and shares in the company.

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Mr. Ding visited Beijing Rongshu Lianzhi Technology in October 2022 and remained there until March of the following year, attending investor meetings to obtain funds for the company.

He established an AI startup in Shanghai in May 2023.

According to a document he posted on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, “We have experience with Google’s ten-thousand-card computational power platform; we just need to replicate and upgrade it—and then further develop a computational power platform suited to China’s national conditions.”

To give the impression that he was working from the Google office in the United States when, in reality, he was in China, he also had another Google employee scan his access badge three different days in December 2023, the Google investigators discovered after reviewing CCTV footage.

In the beginning, Mr. Ding was able to avoid Google’s notice by putting the Google data into his MacBook, which was provided by Google, and then turning it into a PDF file that he could upload to his Google Cloud account.

However, Google got concerned in December 2023 when he uploaded more files from the Google network to a different personal account while he was in China.

According to the indictment, he later admitted to a Google investigator that he had planned to use the data as proof of the work he had done at Google.

According to the prosecution, Mr. Ding failed to tell Google about either of his connections to companies based in China.

In less than a week, he purchased a one-way ticket to Beijing, with an arrival date of January 7. Then, on December 26, he left Google.

The day before Mr. Ding’s scheduled departure from the company on January 5, Google picked up his Google laptop and mobile device from his residence.

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