Grand jury indicts Russian for attempt to hijack Tesla Gigafactory computer system

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – A Nevada federal grand jury indicted a Russian Thursday for his part in an attempt to steal data from Tesla’s computer network and extort a ransom.

Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, 27, was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer network.

Kriuchkov faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

The indictment describes an attempt to bribe an employee of an unnamed company in the Sparks area to insert malware into the company’s computer system between July 16 and Aug. 22.

The website Teslarati tweeted about the incident after Kriuchkov’s arrest and identified Tesla as the targeted company. Tesla founder Elon Musk responded to the tweet: “Much appreciated. This was a serious attack.” Tesla did not immediately respond to a request to comment about the indictment.

The indictment charges Kriuchkov and others not known tried to recruit a Tesla employee to allow malware to be put into the Tesla computer system “to allow the conspirators across the network to extract data.” The conspirators would then make the data public unless Tesla paid a ransom.

Kriuchkov contacted the employee July 16 using WhatsApp and arranged a meeting. Kriuchkov came to the United States on July 28 and drove from San Francisco to Sparks on July 31, where he rented a hotel room. He then visited the employee several times between Aug. 1 and Aug. 3. On Aug. 3, Kriuchkov invited the employee to take part in a “special project” to extract data from Tesla and demand a ransom.

On Aug. 17, Kriuchkov said the group would pay the Tesla employee $1 million. The employee talked on a speaker phone with an unidentified conspirator on ways to make the payment, including cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, a guarantor security deposit or cash.

On Aug. 18, Kriuchkov met with the Tesla employee to give him an application that gave him anonymous access to the internet and to use it to set up a Bitcoin wallet. On Aug. 21 the employee got a smartphone from Kriuchkov to talk to others to carry out the plan and to wait to be contacted via WhatsApp.

The FBI arrested Kriuchkov in Los Angeles on Aug. 22.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office assisted the FBI in the investigation.

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