Apple accuses engineers of stealing chip secrets with AirDrop and Time Machine

Apple is suing a stealthy startup called Rivos for stealing engineers with access to secret company information. According to the complaint, Apple believes the former employees stole sensitive information at the request of Rivos as part of the hiring process.

While not much is known about Rivos for now, the startup is primarily targeting silicon engineers on job listings. Apple says the startup wants to design chips to compete with its own, but the company believes Rivos is doing it with Apple’s proprietary information.

“Beginning in June 2021, Rivos began a coordinated campaign to target Apple employees with access to Apple proprietary and trade secret information about Apple SoC designs,” Apple says in the complaint.

Before the lawsuit, Apple sent a letter to Rivos to explain the confidentiality agreements to which its former employees were bound, but the startup had no response.

Apple accuses outgoing employees poached by Rivos of stealing “gigabytes of sensitive SoC specs and design files” in the lawsuit as well. The presentation explains:

Some used multiple USB thumb drives to download material to personal devices, accessed Apple’s most proprietary specifications stored in collaboration apps, and used AirDrop to transfer files to personal devices. Others saved voluminous presentations on existing and unreleased Apple SoCs, marked Apple property and confidential, on their personal cloud storage drives. One even did a full Time Machine backup of his entire Apple device to a personal external drive.

In the lawsuit against Rivos, Apple names two former engineers who previously worked on its chip team and who joined Rivos last fall. Apple’s lawsuit is aimed at “recovering its trade secrets, protecting them from further disclosure, and uncovering the full extent of their use to try to mitigate the harm that has and will occur.”

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