Tesla sues former employee for stealing 26,000 confidential files

Last updated on Jan 25, 2021, 11:35 pm
Tesla sues former employee for stealing 26,000 confidential files

According to a legal filing, Tesla has sued a former Software Automation Engineer, Alex Khatilov for trade secret theft and breach of contract. In an interview with New York Post, Alex claimed he "forgot" about moving the files to his personal Dropbox. This litigation joins the list of many ongoing lawsuits the company has filed against former employees alleging trade theft.

Accidental espionage

Alex says Dropbox copy was created unintentionally

Alex told New York Post that he unintentionally moved the files to Dropbox and forgot about them while creating a backup of a folder on his computer. He said he was unaware Tesla had sued him until the newspaper contacted him for the interview. However, Tesla asserted very few employees have access to the files its security team has found on Alex's Dropbox.

Sleight of hand

Earlier, Tesla security had remotely interviewed Alex

Tesla's security team remotely confronted Alex about the theft on January 6. The team sought access to his Dropbox, where they found nearly 26,000 Tesla files. The complaint accuses Alex of deleting the Dropbox program right before he gave the security team access to his computer. Elon Musk's company filed the complaint claiming the security team is unconvinced that Alex deleted everything as instructed.

Trade secrets

Tesla explains sensitive nature of stolen files

The complaint states Alex joined Tesla on December 28 2020 and almost immediately began uploading files, and Python scripts developed by the QA team over the last 12 years, to his personal Dropbox. Tesla expressed concern that the code could provide competitors a roadmap to replicate its innovations. The company claims it took "200 man-years of work" to develop the code Alex allegedly stole.

Quality assurance

Alex was hired to help automate QA processes

Alex was hired to create software that helps Tesla's QA team automate processes related to environment, health, and safety. Tesla's complaint says Alex stole code and files from the company's backend software system called WARP Drive. It was developed to automate business processes involved in manufacturing and selling Tesla cars. Alex was one among the 40 QA Engineers in the carmaker's workforce.

Damage control

Tesla concerned files may already have been distributed or relocated

Tesla is concerned Alex may already have shared the files with third parties and competitors, or may have relocated them before company security attempted to erase them from his Dropbox account. Another case where Tesla sued a former employee is from 2018. Guangzhi Cao was sued by the automaker for copying Autopilot source code onto his personal accounts and devices. The case is ongoing.

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