Ex-Tesla engineer charged for hacking and leaking secret information pleads guilty to misdemeanor

tesla xray 2

You might remember the strange case of Nima Kalbasi, a former mechanical engineer at Tesla, who allegedly hacked into his former manager’s email account after being fired in December 2014 and published “confidential customer complaint and false, disparaging remarks about the electric car company.”

He was charged by the FBI in 2015 on two counts of felony computer intrusion and one count of misdemeanor computer intrusion. Last week, he reached a plea agreement by pleading guilty to the misdemeanor count but not to the two felonies.

According to the charges made against Kalbasi, he hacked his former boss’ email about 300 times during the month after being fired and shared publicly customer complaints made to Tesla’s service team in what the company described as an attempt to mislead the public about the reliability of its vehicles.

During the same period, someone anonymously posted screenshots of Tesla’s ticket system used by the service team on the Tesla subreddit. The moderators of the forum (disclosure: I am one of them), contacted Tesla’s security team at the time since it included information about the customers who made the complaints. The page was quickly removed and Tesla investigated.

In the series of posts on the public forum, the complaints were framed in a way to make them seem like an important issue for Tesla – especially due to the number in the hundreds – but most of them were regular service tickets.

Kalbasi, a Canadian, was arrested in Vermont in August 2015.

Law360 (paywall) has been following the case and reported that he reached a plea deal last week, buthe could still face jail time:

Sentencing is scheduled for June 6, and Kalbasi faces up to one year behind bars and a $100,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge. The plea agreement is under seal.

If he would have been found guilty of the two counts of felony computer intrusion on top of the one count of misdemeanor computer intrusion that he pled guilty to, the maximum penalty would have amounted to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines.

It’s not the first time Tesla had issues with being hacked. In April 2015, both Tesla’s website and Elon Musk’s Twitter account were hacked and taken over a group calling themselves the “Autismsquad”.

Additionally, Tesla is suing a former oil executive who tried to impersonate CEO Elon Musk to get material information about the company.

Featured Image: Tesla X-Ray developed by Super Uber for the Geneva Auto Show in 2014

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