Intel engineer helps himself to $400 million

Photographer: Stephen McCormack

Intel Corporation is a world-class organization that has dominated the market for computer chips for many years. In fact, there is a high probability that the device you are using to read this post has an Intel chip inside. However, based on a recent case involving Biswamohan Pani, an Intel Senior Staff Engineer, it may need a little help protecting its intellectual property.

According to the FBI, here are the facts of the case:

  • From February through April, 2008, Pani was looking for a job at other computer chip manufacturers and ultimately obtained a job at Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
  • Pani kept his job search secret from Intel. (Why wouldn’t he?)
  • When he announced his departure on May 29, 2008, he told the company that he might work for a hedge fund
  • Pani told Intel that he wanted to take the next one-and-a-half weeks as vacation until his last day at work on June 11, 2008
  • Unbeknownst to Intel, Pani had started downloading from Intel numerous secret documents about Intel’s manufacturing and design of computer chips. The intensive downloads began on May 28, just before he announced his departure, and continued on May 29
  • Pani started working at AMD on June 2, while he was still on Intel’s payroll and still had access to Intel’s computer systems
  • On June 8 and June 10, Pani remotely accessed Intel’s computer system numerous times and downloaded 13 of Intel’s most valuable documents
  • Along with other confidential and proprietary information, Pani downloaded a document explaining how encrypted documents could be reviewed when not connected to Intel’s computer system
  • Pani backed up the downloaded files to an external hard drive for access after he left Intel
  • On June 11, 2008, Pani reported to Intel for his exit interview and falsely stated that he had not retained any of Intel’s property, when, in fact, he had kept the electronic equivalent of boxes full of downloaded documents and some printed Intel documents at his apartment
  • Documents taken by Pani were found a month later when the FBI searched his home. Intel has valued those documents as worth $200-$400 million, at minimum
  • The FBI was able to recover these documents quickly, before Pani could use them to Intel’s disadvantage, largely because Intel reported the theft quickly and assisted the investigation. AMD also cooperated with the investigation, and there was no evidence that AMD or its employees had asked Pani to take these documents or even knew that he had them

Based on the fact pattern above, it appears Pani knew exactly what he was doing. He grabbed documents before, during and after Intel knew that he was leaving. He also bought time by convincing Intel that he was leaving the industry. I can’t imagine that lying about his ultimate destination stopped Intel from blocking his system access. They probably just forgot to do it. After all, Pani was still on the payroll and “burning” his vacation allotment. Why block an active employee?

Who knows what actually took place, the net result was that Pani had one-and-a-half weeks of access to Intel’s systems during which time he did the most damage. So how did Intel figure out Pani had stolen trade secrets? Clearly, after the fact, but not much else has been mentioned in the media.

This case is eerily similar to another case that the FBI investigated involving Sanofi-Aventis. Is it really that easy to steal trade secrets from Fortune 500 companies? Apparently so…

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

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About Paul McCormack
I have over 20 years of experience in corporate fraud and intellectual theft prevention, detection and investigation. Unlike many fraud experts, I have both industry and professional services experience. To date, I have conducted over 800 interrogations of fraud suspects including numerous senior corporate executives. As a freelance writer, I have written over 1,000 articles on a broad range of topics. My areas of expertise include: • Asset Misappropriation • Big Data • Bribery, Corruption, and Collusion • Check, Wire, ACH, and Credit Card Fraud • Consumer Fraud • Corporate Security • Cybersecurity • Data privacy (Europe, Brazil, Russia, India, and China) • Drug Trafficking • Embezzlement • Employee Fraud • Executive Protection • Fintech • Financial Statement Fraud • FCPA • Healthcare fraud • Identity Theft • Intellectual Property Theft • Internal Audit • Interrogation Tactics • Loss Prevention • Mobile Fraud • Money Laundering • Operational Excellence • Organized Crime • Payments Fraud • PCI Compliance • Retail Fraud • Risk Management • Terrorism and Counterterrorism • UK Bribery Act • Workplace Violence

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