Tesla vs Former Employee Story Takes Bizarre Twist With an Alleged Threat

Monday, 25 Jun, 2018

A former employee hacked into computers at Tesla's Nevada battery factory, stole confidential information and combined it with falsehoods in leaks to the media, the electric auto maker alleged in a federal lawsuit.

In the midst of a media meltdown, the Tesla CEO has claimed that he had caught Martin Tripp, one of his employees, conducting "damaging sabotage to our operations".

A recently fired Tesla technician being sued by his former employer for corporate sabotage alleges he was actually a whistleblower fed up with what he called alarming practices inside the company. By placing the hacking software on other computers, it would indicate that the computer users were responsible for exfiltrating data; wrongly indicating other Tesla employees.

"Under a few months of Tripp joining Tesla, his managers identified Tripp as having issues with job performance and at times being disruptive and combative with his colleagues", the lawsuit stated. The lawsuit alleges that Tripp acted in reprisal for being named to a new role in Tesla. "This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties".

Tripp "unlawfully hacked the company's confidential and trade secret information and transferred that information to third parties", according to the lawsuit. Some of the data stolen and distributed includes a video and at a least a dozen photographs of the manufacturing system. The value of scrap materials generated during manufacturing and false claims regarding new manufacturing equipment being brought online, were also reports made by the insider. In its first-quarter earnings report this year, Tesla said it made a record number of installations and increased the backlog of orders for its Powerwall home batteries.

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The closures come as a part of Tesla's decision last week to cut 9 percent of its workforce.

However, as Musk pointed out, it would be challenging to schedule a Tesla owner's visit with their vehicle entering a particular stage of the production process where the experience-lacking auto owners can be allowed to work on the automobiles.

The suit seeks unspecified financial damages and permission to search Tripp's computers personal USB and electronic storage devices, email accounts, cloud-based storage accounts, and mobile phone call and messaging history. "I certainly would not have initiated contact, nor would I even know his personal email address, and it was probably unwise for me to have responded", he said in an email. I didn't hack into system. "The data I was collecting was so severe, I had to go to the media".

Musk has said that Tesla will become profitable in the second half of 2018 and won't need to raise money for the rest of the year, despite skepticism from some investors and analysts.

Tesla declined to comment on the trial.