By: Aaron Kim, Insider Threat Analyst
Tesla has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, Alexander Yatskov, who has been accused of stealing confidential information regarding their Project Dojo supercomputer. Yatskov was hired as a thermal engineer in January saved confidential information regarding Project Dojo to his personal device. After stealing the confidential information, Tesla states that Yatskov tried to hide his actions by handing over a “dummy” laptop for inspection by Tesla information security team.
“This is a case about illicit retention of trade secrets by an employee who, in his short time at Tesla, already demonstrated a track record of lying and then lying again by providing a ‘dummy’ device to try and cover his tracks,” said Tesla in the official filing.
Tesla says all engineers sign a non-disclosure agreement that should prevent them from disclosing or storing confidential information about Dojo, which Tesla says Yatskov has violated by allegedly “removing Tesla confidential information from work devices and accounts, accessing it on his own personal devices, and creating Tesla documents containing confidential Project Dojo details on a personal computer.” The company also says it discovered Yatskov sending emails with classified Tesla information from his personal email address to his work email.
Project Dojo supercomputer is an internal initiative intended to deliver a system with enormous machine learning performance in order to train models for use in the firm’s vehicles, with the goal of delivering a fully autonomous self-driving vehicle capability. According to Tesla, thermal management is a vital aspect of designing and managing a supercomputer such as Dojo, with all those chips packed closely together and operating at multi-gigahertz clock frequencies, and this is the kind of trade secrets that the company says it is trying to protect in this case.
Yatskov resigned from his position on May 2nd. Tesla is suing Yatskov for compensatory and exemplary damages while seeking a court order that would force Yatskov to return the classified information.
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