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Elon Musk: Tesla employee changed internal code, exfiltrated sensitive data in 'damaging sabotage'

Elon Musk: Tesla employee changed internal code, exfiltrated sensitive data in 'damaging sabotage'

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has said an employee admitted to sabotaging the company's Freemont, California plant, changing code to an internal product and exporting highly sensitive data to outsiders. In an email sent to all employees late Sunday night, Musk said the staffer confessed to "quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations."

Musk said the employee made direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating system under false usernames and sent "large amounts of highly sensitive data" to unknown third parties. It is not immediately clear when the breach occurred and what types of data were stolen and exfiltrated.

"The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad," Musk wrote in the email obtained by CNBC. "His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move."

He noted that "there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye", adding that the in-depth investigation will continue.

"We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations," Musk wrote, adding that there are a "long list of organizations that want Tesla to die."

The email regarding the internal threat also comes at a critical time for Tesla as it strives to hit its Model 3 vehicle production targets by the end of June, having missed these goals in the past. Last week, Tesla also announced a broad restructuring, cutting at least 9% of its workforce.

Musk advised employees to be extremely vigilant over the next few weeks as Tesla ramps up its production rate on the Model 3 to 5000 per week "when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us."

A second email to Tesla employees early Monday detailed a small fire that broke out in the welding area of its Fremont factory. The fire was extinguished, but briefly halted the production line for several hours. No injuries or significant damage were reported. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

“Could just be a random event, but as Andy Grove said, ‘Only the paranoid survive.'” Musk wrote. “Please be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company.”

Cyware Publisher