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People visit the Intel display at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
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Indian techie named in $1bn Intel data theft

November 20, 2008

Text: Michael Orey

Allegations of trade-secret theft by an employee of chipmaker Intel shed light on the surprising vulnerability of one of the world's biggest and most sophisticated technology companies.

Biswamohan Pani, a low-level engineer at Intel, made off with information valued by Intel at more than $1 billion, according to a Nov 5 indictment. Pani is due to appear in Boston federal court to be arraigned on Nov. 20.

Pani allegedly used the simplest of ruses to walk away with some of the chipmaker's most valuable and closely guarded information, and Intel later learned of the actions seemingly by chance.

The case could provide an object lesson for companies hoping to keep their data from walking out the door with departing staff.

"It's amazing how poorly most companies deal with these (information security) issues," says Nick Akerman, a New York lawyer who specialises in trade-secret cases and reviewed court filings in the Pani case.

The facts alleged in the indictment reveal "an overall lack of sophistication" in Intel's "ability to prevent this stuff from leaving their company. ...for a company that's got this much valuable information, this is terrible."

Image: People visit the Intel display at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. | Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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