Ex-Google engineer charged with stealing AI trade secrets while working with Chinese companies

Items are displayed in the Google Store at the Google Visitor Experience in Mountain View, California, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP/File)
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Updated 07 March 2024
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Ex-Google engineer charged with stealing AI trade secrets while working with Chinese companies

  • Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested in Newark, California, on four counts of federal trade secret theft
  • Google said it had determined that the employee had stolen “numerous documents” and referred the matter to law enforcement

WASHINGTON: A former software engineer at Google has been charged with stealing artificial intelligence trade secrets from the company while secretly working with two companies based in China, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Linwei Ding, a Chinese national, was arrested in Newark, California, on four counts of federal trade secret theft, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The case against Ding, 38, was announced at an American Bar Association conference in San Francisco by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who along with other law enforcement leaders has repeatedly warned about the threat of Chinese economic espionage and about the national security concerns posed by advancements in artificial intelligence and other developing technologies.
“Today’s charges are the latest illustration of the lengths affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “The theft of innovative technology and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating economic and national security consequences.”
Google said it had determined that the employee had stolen “numerous documents” and referred the matter to law enforcement.
“We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement. “After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely.”
A lawyer listed as Ding’s defense attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday evening.
Artificial intelligence is the main battleground for competitors in the field of high technology, and the question of who dominates can have major commercial and security implications. Justice Department leaders in recent weeks have been sounding alarms about how foreign adversaries could harness AI technologies to negatively affect the United States.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a speech last month that the administration’s multi-agency Disruptive Technology Strike Force would place AI at the top of its enforcement priority list, and Wray told a conference last week that AI and other emerging technologies had made it easier for adversaries to try to interfere with the American political process.
Garland echoed those concerns at the San Francisco event, saying Wednesday that, “As with all evolving technologies, (AI) has pluses and minuses, advantages and disadvantages, great promise and the risk of great harm.”
The indictment unsealed Wednesday in the Northern District of California alleges that Ding, who was hired by Google in 2019 and had access to confidential information about the company’s supercomputing data centers, began uploading hundreds of files into a personal Google Cloud account two years ago.
Within weeks of the theft starting, prosecutors say, Ding was offered the position of chief technology officer at an early-stage technology company in China that touted its use of AI technology and that offered him a monthly salary of about $14,800, plus an annual bonus and company stock. The indictment says Ding traveled to China and participated in investor meetings at the company and sought to raise capital for it.
He also separately founded and served as chief executive of a China-based startup company that aspired to train “large AI models powered by supercomputing chips,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors say Ding did not disclose either affiliation to Google, which described him Wednesday as a junior employee.
He resigned from Google last Dec. 26.
Three days later, Google officials learned that he had presented as CEO of one of the Chinese companies at an investor conference in Beijing. Officials also reviewed surveillance footage showing that another employee had scanned Ding’s access badge at the Google building in the US where he worked to make it look like Ding was there during times when he was actually in China, the indictment says.
Google suspended Ding’s network access and locked his laptop, and discovered his unauthorized uploads while searching his network activity history.
The FBI in January served a search warrant at Ding’s home and seized his electronic devices, and later executed an additional warrant for the contents of his personal accounts containing more than 500 unique files of confidential information that authorities say he stole from Google.


Pakistan lauds UN report on Gaza, says it confirms Israel’s war crimes and civilian targeting

Updated 8 min 26 sec ago
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Pakistan lauds UN report on Gaza, says it confirms Israel’s war crimes and civilian targeting

  • United Nations report says Hamas’s act of taking hostages on Oct. 7 also constituted a war crime
  • Pakistan asks the international community to hold Israel accountable for brutal prosecution of war

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan applauded the United Nations on Thursday for bringing out a report on war crimes in the ongoing war in Gaza, saying it had confirmed reports that Israel was using starvation as a method of warfare while intentionally targeting civilians during its military campaigns.
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel, released the report on Wednesday, blaming the Palestinian armed groups and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration of grave violations of international law.
Israel besieged the Gaza Strip and launched airstrikes after a surprise attack was initiated by Hamas on Oct. 7 in what it said was a response to the deteriorating condition of Palestinian people living under occupation.
Israel’s response was widely viewed as disproportionate by the international community in which thousands of innocent women and children have so far been killed.
Israel is facing the charges of committing genocide in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that ordered an end to its ongoing offensive in Rafah.
“Pakistan welcomes the June 12 report of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel,” said Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during his weekly media briefing. “The findings of the commission of the inquiry have confirmed reports of Israeli war crimes of starvation as a method of warfare, murder or willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, forceable transfer, torture and inhumane and cruel punishment.”
“Pakistan believes time has come to hold Israel accountable for its grave crimes,” she added. “We call on global conscience to force Israel toward an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. It is also critical to bring an end to the war on the people of Gaza.”
Baloch said Pakistan also considered the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2735 while expressing hope for permanent and sustainable ceasefire and end to the sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza.
The UN commission’s report is based on interviews with victims and witnesses on both Palestinian and Israeli sides about the events of Oct. 7 and what came after that.
The commission’s chair, Navi Pillay, said it was imperative to hold all those accountable who were guilty of committing war crimes.
“The only way to stop the recurring cycles of violence, including aggression and retribution by both sides, is to ensure strict adherence to international law,” she said.
“Israel must immediately stop its military operations and attacks in Gaza, including the assault on Rafah, which has cost the lives of hundreds of civilians and again displaced hundreds of thousands of people to unsafe locations without basic services and humanitarian assistance,” she continued, adding: “Hamas and Palestinian armed groups must immediately cease rocket attacks and release all hostages. The taking of hostages constitutes a war crime.”
The commission also noted the immense numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and widespread destruction of civilian objects and infrastructure were the outcome of a strategy undertaken by Israel with the intention to inflict maximum damage, disregarding the principles of distinction, proportionality and adequate precautions.


NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

Updated 13 min 5 sec ago
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NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons

BRUSSELS: NATO defense ministers gathered Thursday hoping to agree on a new plan to provide long-term security assistance and military training to Ukraine, after Hungary promised not to veto the scheme as long as it’s not forced to take part.
The ministers are meeting over two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the last high-level talks before a summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington on July 9-11, where the military organization’s leaders are expected to announce financial support for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Western allies are trying to bolster their military support as Russian troops launch attacks along the more than 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, taking advantage of a lengthy delay in US military aid. European Union money was also held up by political infighting.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is chairing Thursday’s meeting, said that Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons, ammunition and funds they can expect to receive.
“The whole idea is to minimize the risk for gaps and delays as we saw earlier this year,” Stoltenberg told reporters. The hold-up, he said, “is one of the reasons why the Russians are now able to push and to actually occupy more land in Ukraine.”
Since Russia’s full-fledged invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s Western backers have routinely met as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, run by the Pentagon, to drum up weapons and ammunition for Kyiv. A fresh meeting was held at NATO headquarters on Thursday.
While those meetings have resulted in significant battlefield support, they have been of an ad-hoc and unpredictable nature. Stoltenberg has spearheaded an effort to have NATO take up some of the slack.
The idea is for the 32-nation military alliance to coordinate the security assistance and training process, partly by using NATO’s command structure and drawing on funds from its common budget.
Stoltenberg said he hopes Biden and his counterparts will agree in Washington to maintain the funding level for military support they have provided Ukraine since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
He estimates this at around 40 billion euros ($43 billion) worth of equipment each year.
On Wednesday, Hungary announced that it would not veto the plan as long as it’s not forced to take part.
“I asked the Secretary-General to make it clear that all military action outside NATO territory can only be voluntary in nature, according to NATO rules and our traditions,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. “Hungary has received the guarantees we need.”
The world’s biggest security alliance does not send weapons or ammunition to Ukraine as an organization, and has no plans to put troops on the ground. But many of its members give help on a bilateral basis, and jointly provide more than 90 percent of the country’s military support.
The other 31 allies see Russia’s war on Ukraine as an existential security threat to Europe, but most of them, including Biden, have been extremely cautious to ensure that NATO is not drawn into a wider conflict with Russia.
NATO operates on the basis that an attack on any single ally will be met with a response from them all.


G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

Updated 18 min 52 sec ago
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G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

  • The Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence are also on the packed agenda
  • For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday

BARI: Group of Seven leaders will aim to boost funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia and offer a united face in confronting China’s political and economic ambitions at their annual summit in southern Italy on Thursday.
For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday, and he is due to sign a new, long-term security accord with US President Joe Biden.
The G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed at least in principle on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after its invasion of Ukraine to back the multi-year debt package.
“I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided, but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said of the discussions.
“I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here,” he added.
Officials acknowledge the plan is complex, with legal experts still having to thrash out the details that will need the backing of European nations, particularly Belgium, which is not in the G7.

Packed Agenda
With the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence also on a packed agenda, the June 13-15 summit in the southern Italian region of Puglia would be taxing for leaders at the best of times, but most of them are also bowed down by their own domestic woes.
Only the host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is riding high after triumphing in Italy’s European election last weekend, but achieving meaningful results in the luxury Borgo Egnazia hotel resort will be a tall order.
Biden’s goal at the G7 was to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if it is closely aligned with its democratic allies and partners, Sullivan said, when asked about the prospects of it being the president’s last summit given he faces a re-election battle in November.
Underscoring US determination to punish Moscow for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Washington on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Moscow, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow.
By announcing new restrictions on Chinese firms on the eve of the G7 meeting, Biden is no doubt hoping to persuade Western allies to show greater resolve in confronting Beijing over its support for Russia and its industrial over-capacity.
Speaking ahead of the start of the summit, Sullivan said that China was a significant creditor to many heavily indebted countries.
“The G7 communique is not singling out or focusing on a single country,” he said, but added that China needed to play a constructive role in dealing with the debt burden.


Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

Updated 30 min 15 sec ago
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Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

PRAGUE: Eight European Union foreign ministers called on the EU to ban Russian diplomats from moving freely around the bloc and restrict them to countries where they are accredited, in a letter to EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“Free movement of holders of Russian diplomatic and service passports, accredited in one host state, across the whole Schengen area is easing malign activities,” according to the letter, dated June 11, seen by Reuters.
The ministers said that intelligence, propaganda “or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian ‘diplomats’ in the EU,” and while expulsions were important, the threat remained.
“We believe the EU should strictly follow the reciprocity principle and restrict the movement of members of Russian diplomatic missions and their family members to territory of a state of their accreditation only,” they said.
“This measure will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents,” added the letter, which was signed by ministers from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.


Pakistan raises defense budget by 17.5% to $6.15 billion amid surge in militancy

Updated 46 min ago
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Pakistan raises defense budget by 17.5% to $6.15 billion amid surge in militancy

  • Defense spending in Pakistan draws media focus as debates over security needs and public services persist
  • Media coverage also reflects concerns about transparency, with few details available on the overall spending

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb announced a 17.5 percent increase in the country’s defense budget on Wednesday, saying the government had decided to allocate Rs2.12 trillion ($6.15 billion) for the country’s security needs in view of its geopolitical situation.
Pakistan’s defense budget consistently attracts media attention due to the military’s substantial role in both the political and economic arenas of the country.
The allocation of significant funds to defense sparks debates over the balance between security needs and other critical public services, such as education and health care.
Media coverage and public discussions also reflect concerns about transparency, with governments only mentioning the overall figure without sharing further details.
“Rs2.122 trillion will be provided for defense needs,” the finance minister said during his address to the National Assembly. “And Rs849 billion are being allocated for civil administration expenses.”
Last year, the defense allocation stood at Rs1.80 trillion ($5.23 billion).
According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, the allocated amount “presents an incomplete picture of the country’s actual military expenditure.”
“A significant sum of Rs662 billion [$1.92 billion], designated for retired military personnel, which equals to about 31pc of allocation for the armed forces, will not be drawn from the defense budget, rather government’s current expenditure,” it reported.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant violence in recent years, prompting its armed forces to carry out targeted operations in areas adjoining its border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s army and other law enforcement agencies are also responsible for the providing security to Chinese nationals working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is widely viewed as pivotal to the country’s economic security.
Militant groups have periodically targeted these Chinese workers, killing five of them earlier this year in a suicide bombing in Pakistan’s northwest while they were going to the site of a hydropower project.