Tesla claims it employed a liar who stole trade secrets and tried to hide his tracks using a ‘dummy’ laptop

Tesla claims it employed a liar who stole trade secrets and tried to hide his tracks using a 'dummy' laptop

The company led by CEO Elon Musk hired Alexander Yatskov as a thermal engineer in January to work on cooling technology for the electric car maker’s artificial intelligence supercomputer, but it soon became apparent he was not up to the job, according to a lawsuit Tesla filed against him. His work communications became erratic,” Tesla alleged in the suit filed Friday in US District Court in San Jose. “He was repeatedly unable to complete tasks he was hired for and provided incoherent answers when pressed for explanations.”

After Yatskov proved incapable of performing his duties, company engineers discovered that he was stealing confidential information from work devices and accounts, accessing it through personal devices, and putting confidential details about the supercomputer, nicknamed Dojo and used for projects such as autonomous driving, onto his personal computer, according to the lawsuit. Tesla has filed a lawsuit against a former employee for allegedly taking private information and attempting to hide his tracks when challenged.

It turned out, the suit claimed, that Yatskov had lied on his resume about his work history and skills. Yatskov, who according to the suit worked at Tesla offices in Fremont, where the company’s auto factory is located, could not be reached for comment. After Yatskov proved incapable of doing his job, company engineers discovered that he was taking confidential information from work devices and accounts, accessing it via his personal devices and putting confidential details about the supercomputer — nicknamed Dojo and used for projects such as autonomous driving — onto his personal computer, the suit claimed.

“When confronted by Tesla’s information security team, (Yatskov) eventually admitted he downloaded Tesla confidential information from his Tesla accounts and devices to his personal devices,” the suit alleged. Tesla, which in December moved its headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, put Yatskov on administrative leave because he had been told repeatedly not to use personal devices for work related to the supercomputer, and he was asked to bring in his personal devices for “forensic imaging,” the suit said.

Yatskov agreed to hand over his phone and his personal laptop, but the laptop was not the one he had used to take the confidential data, the suit claimed. Instead, it was a ‘”dummy” device that no one had logged onto since late 2020 — except for Yatskov, who logged on the same morning he gave it to Tesla, when he had “tried to add in information to make the laptop look like it may have accessed only inoffensive Tesla information, like an offer letter, in an effort to deceive Tesla’s information security team,” the suit alleged.

Yatskov resigned from Tesla, with his last day April 6, according to the suit. Tesla said in the suit it did not know how much confidential data Yatskov took, or whether he has shared any of it. The former employee could derive “substantial benefit” from the trade secrets, Tesla claimed. The company is seeking unspecified damages, and a court order that Yatskov return any confidential information, and identify anyone with whom he shared proprietary data.

A week before Tesla’s suit was filed, Cupertino iPhone giant Apple sued a Mountain View startup it claimed had poached Apple employees who took secret chip designs on their way out. – Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service

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