The chip manufacturer for advanced machinery, ASML, has been robbed of trade secrets. This will do damage of hundreds of millions of euros to their company. Financial Dagblad has laid blame on the Chinese for stealing valuable trade secrets.
Four employees, all with Chinese names, rose the ranks insidiously within ASML, attained high ranking positions in research and development teams. It is now known they have indirect ties to the Chinese government.
In their positions, these agents would have had access to sensitive information on the U.S servers. The spies lifted source code, the company pricing strategy, and software, why? To sell to a Chinese competitor, XTAL, established in 2014. XTAL is the Dutch tech manufacturer’s direct competitor and is blamed for espionage on Dutch soil.
ASML denies any espionage took place
UPDATE 12/4: A recent press release by ASML reads,
“The suggestion that we were somehow the victim of a national conspiracy is wrong. The facts of the matter are that we were robbed by a handful of our own employees based in Silicon Valley, who had broken the law to enrich themselves. All of this occurred several years ago. We found this out by ourselves and immediately sought legal action in public court in 2016. This was reported on in several publications after our victory in November 2018,”
– ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink.
In 2015, ASML had its computer systems breached. So what does a company like this have that’s so valuable?
They manufacture chips for brands like Samsung, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nikon to settle a patent dispute and ASML expects their net sales in the first quarter of 2019 to reach € 2.1 billion.
The threat of espionage
The Dutch security agency (AIVD) released a statement in their annual report last year. They state in no uncertain terms that countries around the world do partake in espionage missions, often corporate. Countries do this often to boost their economy and stay ahead of the curb, to maintain political dominance well into the foreseeable future.
“Countries such as China, Iran, and Russia have offensive cyber programs aimed at the Netherlands.”, – AIVD annual report 2018. Chinese espionage on Dutch soil is not unprecedented. AIVD’s updated manual on national security in the Netherlands will be released May 1st.
Espionage in recent times
Earlier this year The Mercury News reported that a Silicon Valley Jury had found a development engineer at ASML’s California headquarters, guilty of espionage. At the tech firm in San Jose, Gangyi Chen stole secrets and brought them to a competitive Chinese firm.
With all of the espionage, be it politically motivated, corporately motivated or all of the above brings with it the dark cloud of the continued efforts of unknown enemies.
With ASML’s shares already dropping and espionage at the heart of this debate. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment on our Facebook page!