Tesla sues former employee for allegedly stealing data

Martin Tripp is accused of hacking into systems to steal "several gigabytes of Tesla data."

Among the allegations is that Tripp leaked misleading information about the Model 3.
Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Tesla has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, saying that he stole confidential data and made "false" statements to the media about Tesla's manufacturing operations. CNBC reports that Tesla filed the suit against Martin Tripp in Nevada.

The lawsuit accuses Tripp of writing software that hacked into Tesla's computer systems to steal information on the "Manufacturing Operating System," including confidential photos and videos of the production line. The software was allegedly set up to "periodically export Tesla's data off its network and into the hands of third parties." Moreover, Tesla's suit says that Tripp installed this software on other employees' computers so the exfiltration would continue even if he were laid off from the company.

Finally, Tesla's lawsuit says that Tripp made misleading claims about Tesla to the media. Specifically, the suit claims Tripp falsely claimed some Model 3s had used punctured battery cells, that the scrappage rate from Model 3 production was exceptionally high and that Tesla was "delayed" in bringing online new manufacturing equipment.

Tesla's suit also accuses Tripp of beginning his actions after he was reassigned to a different job role, against his wishes, in May 2018. The filing says that Tripp admitted to his hacking efforts when he was confronted with evidence by Tesla staff in June.

Over the weekend, CEO Elon Musk emailed Tesla employees warning that a saboteur had infiltrated company computer systems and leaked that data to outsiders. It's likely this is the incident to which Musk was referring. Tesla was not immediately available for comment.