Tesla sues employee alleged to have stolen gigabytes of data

Enlarge / Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, speaks at a press conference at the Nevada State Capitol, September 4, 2014 in Carson City, Nevada.

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On Wednesday, Tesla sued a former employee who worked in its Gigafactory in Nevada, accusing him of stealing trade secrets.

The lawsuit appears to be what CEO Elon Musk was referring to recently when he said that production of the Model 3 had been sabotaged.

Musk said that there are “more” alleged saboteurs.

According to the civil complaint that was filed in federal court in Nevada, Tesla accused Martin Tripp, who began working in Sparks as a “process technician” in October 2017, of exporting company data:

Tesla has only begun to understand the full scope of Tripp’s illegal activity, but he has thus far admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla’s manufacturing operating system (“MOS”) and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla data to outside entities. This includes dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems.

Beyond the misconduct to which Tripp admitted, he also wrote computer code to periodically export Tesla’s data off its network and into the hands of third parties. His hacking software was operating on three separate computer systems of other individuals at Tesla so that the data would be exported even after he left the company and so that those individuals would be falsely implicated as guilty parties.

The lawsuit also alleges that Tripp was confronted by Tesla’s internal investigators on June 14 and 15, 2018. While he initially denied his actions, Tripp apparently eventually came clean. The trove of data he managed to exfiltrate included “dozens of photographs and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems.”

According to Tesla, Tripp also tried to “recruit additional sources” within the company.

Tripp has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit.

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