For companies considered to be on the leading edge of innovation, intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets can be the separation between themselves and the rest of the industry. Obviously IP is incredibly important to every company, but for those that have cultivated a certain aura of innovative mystique, that privileged information serves as the curtain that hides the fact that the great and powerful wizard is pulling levers as any entrepreneur would.
Such is the case for Tesla as it contends with a case of stolen trade secrets and alleged sabotage. Tesla CEO and Hank Scorpio doppelganger Elon Musk sent an email to all employees alleging that an employee had made changes to the company's production systems code and exported large amounts of company data to third parties. The email suggests that the employees could have been disgruntled after missing out on a promotion and was potentially working with competitors from traditional automobile manufacturers, fossil fuel companies, or those looking to short sell.
Tesla subsequently filed a lawsuit against a former employee, Martin Tripp, accusing Tripp of stealing trade secrets and breach of contract, among other offenses. The suit asks for "injunctive relief enjoining Tripp and all persons or entities acting in concert or participation with him from obtaining, using, or disclosing any of Tesla's confidential information or trade secrets" lending credence to claims of corporate espionage and sabotage. The complaint against Tripp further alleges that he had written software and computer code that hacked Tesla's manufacturing operating system and transferred data from Tesla's systems to offsite data storage.
This incident is not the first occasion that Elon Musk has been convinced of efforts to sabotage the work of his companies. Ars Technica reports that a separate email sent out regarding a fire implied the possibility of sabotage, and SpaceX's feud with United Launch Alliance led to one SpaceX employee demanding to access the roof of a ULA facility after an explosion of a SpaceX rocket led to suspicions of sabotage.
While most companies aren't in the business of building spacecraft or flamethrowers, there are nevertheless important trade secrets and customer lists that should be kept safe. Even if you feel like your work isn't of the world-changing variety, your company should still take security seriously and devote the necessary resources to protecting your sensitive IP.