In January 2019, Jizhong Chen, an engineer in Apple’s autonomous car division, was spotted covertly snapping pictures in a restricted area. According to prosecutors, Chen, a Chinese national, had 2,000 files on his personal hard drive, including manuals and schematics, and was applying for a job with a Chinese rival. The charges came months after a similar case in which another Apple worker was accused of stealing trade secrets and arrested by FBI agents while attempting to board a flight to China.
Such cases, particularly in rapidly evolving proprietary fields, are far from rare. However, they are only one of a range of – on occasion, existential – threats companies face today from individuals, groups or even nation-states that steal confidential information. From the Colonel’s once-secret KFC fried chicken recipe and the Coca-Cola formula at one extreme, to key customer data, “black box” know-how about valuable processes, systems, market forecasting, R&D data, algorithms, expansion plans and key competitors at the other, in the digital age, every business has sensitive commercial data.
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