Tesla is suing a recently hired software engineer who the company claims has stolen important automated software from the WARP drive ERP system.
Tesla WARP Drive
Although most automakers commonly use enterprise software known from third parties such as SAP, Tesla decided to build their own from scratch instead.
Tesla’s longtime Chief Information Officer J. Vijayan, who quietly moved in in January 2016, is credited with leading the development of the system, which Tesla calls “Tana”.
Vijayan discusses what pushed him to develop his “taunt” system during an interview with CIO Insight in 2014:
Elon’s vision is to create a single integrated organization, where information flow is basically in departments and where we have a closed feedback loop for our customers. By doing this, we can provide our customers with the best possible product, service and overall experience, while it is working efficiently as a business to bring the vision to life, we have simple and central business operations software It can connect all departments and radically enable information flow across departments. Again, we could not find a software program in the market that would meet this need.
Elon Musk has since pushed his companies to develop even more new enterprise engineering systems at many of his companies.
For example, we previously reported sharing some custom software platforms developed for content research on Tesla and SpaceX.
WARP engages a lot of important backend software that automates many processes for Tesla, for list building.
Someone is trying to steal Tesla’s software
In a new case filed in the Northern District of California court, Tesla claims that recently hired software engineer Alex Khatilov stole his WARP drive software.
Tesla writes in the lawsuit:
On December 28, 2020, Tesla hired the defendant as a software automation engineer. Within three days, he began stealing thousands of highly confidential software files from Tesla’s secure internal network, transferring them to his personal cloud storage account on Dropbox, which Tesla does not have. Access or visibility. The files consist of “scripts” of proprietary software code, which Tesla has spent years engineering to create. When these scripts are executed, Tesla’s business automates a range of tasks. Only a select few Tesla employees have access to these files; And as a member of that group, the defendant took advantage of that access to downloaded files related to his job. “
Automakers have strong evidence that Khatilov downloaded scripts effortlessly.
Tesla’s InfoSec team gained access to the Engineer’s Dropbox account, where they found files that have no business:
“On January 6, 2021, Tesla’s information security personnel detected the unauthorized download of the Defendant and confronted and interviewed the Defendant that day. During this interview, he repeatedly claimed that he had transferred only a couple’s personal administrative documents. After being inspired, he gave Tesla investigators access to view his Dropbox account, where he found out that Defender’s claims were absolutely untrue: Tesla investigators found thousands and thousands of Tesla’s confidential computer scripts in his Dropbox. The defendant then claimed that he “forgot” about the thousands of other files he had stolen (almost certainly another lie). Worse, it became clear that defendants attempted to destroy evidence by quickly deleting Dropbox clients and other files during the beginning of the interview, when investigators attempted to access their computers remotely Were staying. “
Tesla employs a team of quality assurance engineers that help identify business functions based on input from Tesla’s business leaders. Engineers write computer scripts in Python (a computer programming language) to automate those tasks, and test automated processes to make sure they work properly. These scripts are unique to Tesla and run on WARP drives, the backend software of most of Tesla’s businesses.
Developing this complex system is expensive and time consuming. Tesla has spent nearly 200 man-years of work to develop the Quality Assurance script – the cumulative hours spent by the Quality Assurance engineering team over the last twelve years. The work of engineers at Tesla is also guided by business leaders, who recognize that tasks need to be automated – another large and valuable investment of their time.
Tesla is being determined in a lawsuit for damages and is seeking an injunction to prevent the defendant from sharing any information with other parties.
The entire complaint filed in the court here:
This is not the first time Tesla has turned to the court protecting its trade secrets from former employees who allegedly stole important information.
Tesla sued the employees for claiming they stole Autopilot source code and then went to a Chinese EV automaker, Xpeng.
The automaker also sued Zox and it is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Rivian over similar claims of IP theft.
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