A Russian hacker targeted Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory in a concerted plot to cripple the company’s network with malware. But the FBI and a Tesla employee thwarted those plans.
August 28, 2020 | AtoZ Markets – Electric carmaker Tesla and the US criminal investigation agency FBI prevented a group of ransomware attackers from compromising the firm’s assembly facility, the “Gigafactory,” according to a complaint filed by the FBI.
Tesla CEO, Elon Musk confirmed Thursday that the Tesla Inc. gigafactory in Nevada was the target of a cyberattack.
“This was a serious attack,” the billionaire entrepreneur said in response to a media report related to the attempted hacking on Twitter.
Employee contacted the FBI early in the recruitment process
The FBI said it arrested one Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a 27-year-old Russian citizen. He attempted to steal Tesla’s corporate data by making a Bitcoin payment to an employee to install malware on Tesla servers.
Kruichkov, and his group, attempted to steal Tesla patents and intellectual property in this manner. Their aim was to ask “millions of dollars” in ransom for not leaking that data, the FBI complaint said.
The cyberattack was so planned. Kruichkov came to the US on a tourist visa and made a connection with a Russian-speaking employee—who remains anonymous in the report—at the Gigafactory. He then met the employee on “several occasions” and made a proposition to pay a fixed amount in Bitcoin to have malware installed on Tesla servers.
But the employee was quick to avert the plans. They immediately informed Tesla about the illicit proposal, which in turn contacted the FBI about the planned crime.
The FBI then launched a sting operation with the employee. He reportedly pretended to go along with the plan and wore a wire during future meetings with the Russian hacker. This also includes information about planning the attack and figuring out how to receive the Bitcoin payment.
Telsa Russian hacker planned to pay $1m in Bitcoin
After weeks of wire-tapping, Kruichov finally planned to make a $1 million payment using Bitcoin. He told the employee on August 21 that he would receive the Bitcoin payment in a few days after leaving the US.
Kruichov didn’t make it far, however. FBI agents arrested Kriuchkov as he tried to leave the US August 22 via Los Angeles over the weekend. He was charged on Monday. If found guilty, Kriuchkov could face up to five years in prison for his role in the scheme.
Meanwhile, the FBI said Kruichov worked with a group that planned similar attacks on companies by luring employees with huge Bitcoin (or fiat) payments in turn of installing malware. Back in July, logistics company CWT Group paid $4.5 million for a similar ransomware attack.
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