A US federal grand jury has indicted Google engineer Linwei Ding, aka Leon Ding, for stealing trade secrets for the company’s artificial intelligence chip software and hardware.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Ding stole more than 500 confidential files containing AI trade secrets from Google while working undercover at companies in China.

Much of the stolen data reportedly revolves around Google Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips. Google TPU chips power many AI workloads and can train and run AI models like Gemini with Nvidia GPUs.

The files allegedly stolen include software for both v4 and v6 TPU chips, hardware and software specifications for GPUs used in Google data centers, and designs for Google machine learning workloads in data centers.

Late last year, intelligence chiefs from the so-called Five Eyes alliance of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand warned US tech companies about Chinese companies that could steal intellectual property related to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics.

The government accuses Ding of transferring those files to a personal Google Cloud account between May 2022 and May 2023.

He allegedly did this by “copying data from Google’s source files into the Apple Notes application on his Google-issued MacBook laptop” and then converting them from Apple’s Notes to PDF files to avoid detection by Google’s data loss prevention systems.

Less than a month after he began stealing the files, a Chinese machine learning company called Rongshu offered to make him the company’s chief technology officer, the government says. He left Google in December 2023 and reportedly booked a one-way ticket to Beijing, departing two days after his end date, after the company started asking him about his uploads.

It is also alleged that in December 2023, he allegedly pretended to be at a Google US office by having another employee scan his badge on the door while he was in China. Ding was charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets and faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Source: The Verge