A former developer for IBM pled guilty on Friday to economic espionage and to stealing trade secrets related to a type of software known as a clustered file system, which IBM sells to customers around the world.
Xu Jiaqiang stole the secrets during his stint at IBM from 2010 to 2014 "to benefit the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China," according to the U.S. Justice Department.
In a press release describing the criminal charges, the Justice Department also stated that Xu tried to sell secret IBM source code to undercover FBI agents posing as tech investors. (The agency does not explain if Xu's scheme to sell to tech investors was to benefit China or to line his own pockets).
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Part of the sting involved Xu demonstrating the stolen software, which speeds computer performance by distributing works across multiple servers, on a sample network. The former employee acknowledged that others would know the software had been taken from IBM, but said he could create extra computer script to help mask its origins.
Xu, who is a Chinese national who studied computer science at the University of Delaware, will be sentenced on October 13.
The Justice Department's press release does not identify IBM, but instead refers to "the Victim Company." But other news outlets name IBM as the target of the theft, while a LinkedIn page with Xu's name shows he worked at IBM as a file system developer during the relevant dates.
IBM did not immediately respond to request for comment on Sunday.
This isn't the first time that Chinese nationals have carried out economic espionage against American companies. In 2014, the Justice Department charged five Chinese hackers for targeting U.S. nuclear and solar energy firms. And late last year, the agency charged three others for hacking U.S. law firms with the goal of trading on insider information that they obtained.