Employers beware of Trade Secret Theft. A Forensic Expert can reveal a pattern that is indicative of a departed employee. Hire an Expert (HAE) to help track stolen or misappropriated data to lessen the financial loss left in the wake by a former employee.
Departing Employees Steal Data
Employers beware of trade secret theft! The pandemic forced many employers to require their employees to work from home without appropriate cybersecurity measures required to secure sensitive data. The increased vulnerability of company trade secrets has made it extremely difficult to navigate through an employee’s departure from an organization. Enigma Forensics has over 20 years of experience helping organizations navigate through the separation of employers, partners, and employees. Even the most technically savvy employers in the technology sector have issues with trade secret theft. Check out this example!
August 2020, Former Google exec Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months for stealing self-driving car trade secrets
The technology giant Google recently sued their departed superstar engineer Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski helped develop the fast-growing world of self-driving cars and was the primary executive who helped Google to grow in the self-driving car industry. For reasons we can only speculate about, he departed Google to start his own self-driving truck company called Otto.
Levandowski sold Otto to Uber in 2016
Lewandowski’s new company, Otto become the first-ever self-driving trucking company. In 2016, he entered a deal with Uber to sell Otto and joined Uber as a high-ranking executive in its self-driving division. Google’s new self-driving unit called Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber for trade secret theft. Waymo alleged that through Uber’s purchase of Otto they gained access to Google’s sensitive technology that Levandowski allegedly illegally took on his way out Google’s door.
Levandowski settled with Waymo (Google) in a trade secret theft case
During the trial, Levandowski refused to hand over documents and as a result, became in trouble with the US Attorney’s Office. He eventually reached a deal and was ordered to pay $747,000 in restitution to Google and a fine of $97,000. Levandowski had to declare bankruptcy after another separate court ruling that found him guilty of poaching Waymo engineers. Following the aftermath of the trade secret case against Uber and Levandowski, in September 2020, Levandowski filed another lawsuit. He alleged that the Waymo case negatively affected the Otto deal with Uber, and as a result, didn’t receive the financial rewards that were promised to him. Karma always seems to creep into these scenarios.
The Same Story Over and Over Again
All too often we see the same story played out no matter what the industry, company, or corporation. For top earners, there are only a few options for them to make a change. These are two options that we typically see in trade secret cases.
The first option is to out on their own as an entrepreneur or the second option is to go work for the competition. Once a top earner joins the competition, it’s often only a matter of time before they call on trusted former colleagues to join them. The next step in pursuing employees that departed for a competitor is often hiring a computer forensics expert skilled in trade secret misappropriation investigations. An expert is an unbiased third party that will track down the data that was illegally taken, document his/her findings in an affidavit, and assist with fact discovery. Ultimately, confronting the former employee with clear facts that demonstrate the trade secret misappropriation may lead to an agreed settlement. Often times, litigation continues and leads to a trial with the evidence at issue presented in a court of law. Having an experienced expert on your side can make the difference in the overall outcome.
Enigma Forensics has assisted in many trade secret cases. Hire an Expert (HAE) and Win Your Trade Secret Case! Call Enigma Forensics at 312-668-0333 to investigate.
Enigma Forensics experts investigate, preserve and recovery data to prove or disprove Trade Secret Theft. We have assisted many clients in financially recovering what was stolen from them or to help clear their name. Are you interested in learning more about trade secret theft? Check out Tesla’s latest law suit against a former software engineer.
A large portion of our business is forensically recovering and preserving data that is vital in proving or disproving trade secret theft. Enigma Forensics experts love to follow Tesla! We love the look of their beautifully engineered electric cars and we’re very interested in Elon Musk, the controversial character behind the engineering. Who is now labeled the most wealthiest man in the world. Our interest was piqued when we heard about Tesla’s latest lawsuit and that prompted us to write this blog.
On January 22, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alex Khatilov, a former software engineer over Trade Secret Theft and Breach of Contract. Tesla contends that within days after Khatilov started his position on December 28, 2019, he began stealing thousands of highly confidential software files from Tesla’s secured internal network, transferring them to his personal cloud storage account on Dropbox to which Tesla has no access or visibility.
How did Tesla discover this trade secret theft or misappropriation of data?
On January 6, Tesla’s information security personnel detected Khatilov’s unauthorized download of a complete set of all the automation scripts produce by the Quality Assurance Engineering team for WARP Drive over the last twelve years! He was confronted the next day via Microsoft video chat due to Khatilov working remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions. Khatilov claims he installed a Dropbox desktop application to his Tesla issued laptop to allow him to upload administrative files to his personal Dropbox. He swore over and over that he only transferred administrative documents and then when he finally shared his screen with Tesla investigators he could be seen deleting the Dropbox files while on video chat confirming he had willfully destroyed evidence.
Why all the fuss?
How important are these scripts? These scrips are unique to Tesla and run on WARP Drive, the backend software for much of Tesla’s business. These files consisted of “scripts” of proprietary software code that Tesla has spent years of engineering time to build. When executed, these scripts automate a broad range of functions throughout Tesla’s business and only a few select employees have access to these files. It gets better! This is the good part…Khatilov contends he forgot about downloading thousands of confidential files!
The reality of this trade secret theft or misappropriation of confidential data is that Tesla has no way of knowing whether Khatilov copied the scripts onto a thumb drive, a mobile device, or a cloud based storage or most importantly sent them to another individual. To understand more thoroughly how important these “scripts” or trade secrets are…They map out Tesla’s innovations! Making them extremely valuable and beneficial to any competitor.
What measures ensure against trade secret theft or misappropriation?
Tesla limited the “scripts” access to only members of the Quality Assurance Engineering team in which Khatilov was one of forty employees to have access. The engineers that have access are not permitted to download scripts to the cloud or personal devices. This makes us wonder how Khatilov was able to download data!
Only eight people within the Tesla company are approved to grant access to these scripts.
Each engineer signs an extensive employment agreement and agrees to policy conditions of their employment with includes a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), that holds each employee to the strictest confidence of proprietary information, technical data, trade secrets so on and so forth.
The NDA also states that upon termination or departure each employee will immediately return to the company all original document electronic or hard copies.
Each physical facility has restricted access to only authorized personnel that are monitored by security guards and cameras.
All visitors must check in with security, sign a NDA, submit to a photograph and be escorted by an employee.
Tesla also used password-protected and firewall-protected networks and servers that are only accessible to current Tesla employee with the proper credentials.
Moral of this story is…
Even high level technology companies has issues with trade secret theft. If your company suspects something like this, immediately hire a computer forensics expert to electronically preserve data of soon to be departing or a departed employee that has already left the company. Enigma Forensics can analyze data that was misappropriated or stolen to help clients recover financial loss.