Probe looks into Beijing’s involvement with recent ASML data theft

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A former employee accused of stealing data from ASML is being investigated for links with the Chinese government, Bloomberg reports. Citing two people familiar with the company’s internal investigation, the news agency writes that he “was identified as having potential ties to a Chinese state-sponsored entity and stealing the data on its behalf.” US officials are said to be involved in the probe. ASML declined to comment while the investigation is ongoing.

ASML disclosed the theft in its annual report, published on 15 February. “We’ve experienced unauthorized misappropriation of data relating to proprietary technology by a (now) former employee in China,” the report states. The nature of the stolen data hasn’t been revealed. Following an internal review, however, ASML believes the wrongdoing will have no material impact on its business, although it may have violated US export control regulations. That might explain the involvement of US officials.

Credit: ASML

The breach is the second major incident linked to China or Chinese citizens. In 2019, a California court ordered XTAL, founded by a former ASML Brion employee, to pay ASML 845 million dollars in damages for stealing intellectual property. By that time, XTAL was already in bankruptcy. Founder Zongchang Yu evaded criminal prosecution by fleeing to China, where he’d already started the metrology and yield optimization company Dongfang Jingyuan.

ASML has expressed concern about Dongfang commercializing the stolen IP and has urged customers not to do business with it. The Chinese firm reportedly raised 140 million dollars in venture capital last year.