Former Apple engineers are accused of data theft

Apple’s Rivos lawsuit puts SoC design engineering center stage.

Apple has filed a lawsuit against the RISC-V startup Rivos. The latter has hired several former high-ranking engineers from Apple. But, according to Apple, she also stole chip-related trade secrets.

Spy employees

A complaint was filed last Friday. Apple accuses Rivos of launching a “coordinated campaign” to target employees with information about Apple’s SoC designs. And in particular on the silicon of the M1 chips for laptops and A15 for iPhone. Namely, SoCs are integrated circuits that include several computer components in a single chip. Including central processing units and graphics processing units.

Put simply, Apple accuses the startup of hiring more than 40 former Apple employees over the past year to work on system-on-chip (SoC) technology. A system that competes with Apple’s A and M series chips. Specifically, according to the Apple brand, at least two former engineers allegedly stole “gigabytes of specifications and sensitive system-on-chip design files” during their last days of work at Apple. Moreover, these former Apple employees would have tried to erase their Apple devices to try to cover their traces.

Steal Apple through Apple Services

The two employees accused of data theft allegedly used USB drives and AirDrop to offload sensitive Apple documents onto their own personal devices. They also allegedly grabbed presentations on unreleased SoCs and saved them to their cloud accounts. Regarding the organization of the theft, Apple believes that Rivos communicated with some employees through encrypted messaging applications.

Bhasi Kaithamana, one of the specific employees accused of data theft, allegedly copied thousands of Apple documents containing “proprietary information and trade secrets”. And this, during one week in August 2021. He was a CPU implementation engineer managing the design of CPUs for Apple’s SoCs. Ricky Wen, a CPU design engineer, reportedly transferred 390 gigabytes of data from his Apple-provided computer to a personal hard drive. And this, between July 26, 2021 and July 29, 2021, just before leaving the company. According to Apple, he stole information on current SoCs and those that have not yet been released. Clearly, the transferred data contains confidential documents from Apple describing aspects of the microarchitecture of the past, current and unpublished SoCs of the Cupertino company.

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