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Elon Musk used genius method to identify Tesla employee who was leaking confidential information to press

Elon Musk used genius method to identify Tesla employee who was leaking confidential information to press

The Tesla CEO revealed how he caught an employee who was leaking information during the 2008 Great Recession.

Elon Musk has revealed the savvy way he caught a Tesla employee who had been leaking information to the press amid the 2008 recession.

Twitter user Vaibhav Balghare – who tweets using the handle @NASAEarthMars - asked the Tesla CEO how he caught the member of staff who sold ‘confidential data’ about automotive company.

Musk, who tweets frequently and has over 108 million followers, saw the tweet and responded with a quick summary of how the case was solved.

“That is quite an interesting story,” he tweeted on 9 October. “We sent what appeared to be identical emails to all, but each was actually coded with either one or two spaces between sentences, forming a binary signature that identified the leaker.”

This sounds straight out of Scooby-Doo.


When asked by another Twitter user – known as @MirrorinSpace – asked what happened to the employee after they were discovered, Musk quipped: “They were invited to further their career elsewhere.”

Another queried whether the billionaire sought legal action against the former employee, however Musk said: “Too busy trying to survive at the time.”


The year 2008 is of course marred as being one of the worst for businesses during the Great Recession, sparking a worldwide financial crisis.

Tesla neared bankruptcy on Christmas Eve of that year after the company had a ‘crazy tough year’.

Musk previously opened up about these tough times on Twitter. “That was a crazy tough year,” he said to a fan about 2008. “Tesla financing closed at 6pm Christmas Eve – last hour of the last day possible. Payroll would otherwise have bounced two days after Christmas.

This method for exposing an information leak is known as a canary trap. This is when different versions of a document are given to suspects to see which version gets leaked to catch the culprit.

The term 'canary trap' was popularised by Tom Clancy in his novel Patriot Games, however, the method is usually referred to as a barium meal test in espionage circles. It has been used by intelligence agencies for many years.

Elon Musk responded to fans on Twitter who asked about the method.
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo.

Another well-known example of a canary trap comes from Coleen Rooney – yes, really - who used the technique to figure out who was leaking information from her private Instagram stories to the press.

Rooney shared fake stories which were blocked from all but one account and she publicly identified the leaks as coming from the account of Rebekah Vardy, the wife of footballer Jamie Vardy.

The trial that followed the bombshell reveal became known hilariously as the Wagatha Christie case.

Who would’ve thought Musk and Vardy would have so much in common?

Featured Image Credit: Everett Collection Inc / Apex MediaWire / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Elon Musk, Technology, News