Tesla CEO and co-founder have confirmed the report that the Tesla employee was approached by Russian national to install malware on Tesla Gigafactory Nevada earlier in August in exchange for $1 million, which was subsequently prevented by the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) FBI.
US authorities arrested and charged this 27-year-old Russian national named Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov for reaching out to one of Tesla’s employees via WhatsApp, which they previously met four years ago, in 2016 according to court documents.
The employee reported everything to the company and they immediately contacted FBI and instead they planned to obtain information against the conspirator which he confessed to another similar crime wherein he extorted a ransom of $4.5 million from CWT Travel.
Kriuchkov offered to pay the employee $1 million in cryptocurrency and even cash. On August 19th the employee met Egor equipped with wire from the FBI who asked him to download Tor Browser to facilitate down payment via bitcoin payment system.
On 21 August Kriuchkov met with the employee again to inform that the plan has been ‘delayed’ and so is the payment. He mentioned he’s leaving the area and gave an employee a phone which he asked him to keep it on airplane mode until he contacted via WhatsApp.
In a criminal complaint [PDF], FBI’s Special Agent Micheal J. Hughes said that:
Based upon the above facts and my training and experience, I believe the foregoing facts establish that probable cause exists to believe that Egor Igorevich Krichkov has committed the offense of conspiracy to Interntiallly Cause Damage to a Protection Computer.
Elon musk officially confirmed in a tweet saying hacking plot did indeed targeted his company.
“The purpose of the conspiracy was to recruit an employee of a company to surreptitiously transmit malware provided by the coconspirators into the company’s computer system, exfiltrate data from the company’s network, and threaten to disclose the data online unless the company paid the coconspirators’ ransom demand,” according to the Department of Justice’s complaint.
Throughout multiple meetings, Egor revealed to Tesla employee that he’s working with a Russian-based hacker group and proposed the employee to install custom-built malware on Tesla’s internal network.
According to Teslarati, once this successfully done, hackers were to extort substantial money from Tesla. In return, the employee would be compensated heavily but unfortunately for Krichkov and his associates’ tables turned rather in a nasty manner.
Kriuchkov said the group spent $250,0000 to build custom malware that would exfiltrate data from Tesla’s internal network and upload it to a remote server. This way they would steal sensitive files and threatens to reveal data unless paid a huge ransom demand.
FBI agents arrested Kriuchkov as he tried to flee the country via Los Angeles on August 22nd. He has been detained and could face up to five years in prison for his role in the scheme.