Tesla and FBI prevented ransomware hack at Gigafactory 1
Tesla would have fallen victim to a case of cybercrime if the FBI had not intervened in a sting operation that reads like an espionage thriller. It involves a Russian hacker – actually a group of them – corruption and well, law enforcement.
But first to the end. The FBI said this week they had arrested Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a 27-year-old Russian citizen, who they claim was part of a group who attempted to extort millions of dollars from Tesla. More precisely, the group had threatened a malware attack on the Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.
According to the complaint, Kriuchkov entered the US in July on a tourist visa and made contact with a Russian-speaking employee at Tesla in Nevada. He befriended the employee – the FBI only refers to him as “CHS1, a Confidential Human Source 1” – before making him a proposition to pay him to help introduce malware in Tesla’s internal computer system.
The hacker referred to this as “special projects” that he and a group would introduce. The idea was to extract corporate data and affect Tesla’s operations to then arrange a ransom with Tesla to not release the information and stop affecting its operations.
The employee didn’t outright refuse but immediately informed Tesla, who in turn told the FBI.
The Bureau launched a sting operation, sending the employee in, wearing a wire and shared text communications with Kriuchkov as they were negotiating the terms of the malware attack. Apparently, the continued interaction helped the FBI to obtain information about previous attacks from this group.
Ultimately, Kriuchkov and another Russian-speaking individual agreed to pay the spying employee one million dollars, double the amount of their initial offer, to deliver the malware in a Tesla computer. Of course, this never happened.
Instead, the FBI arrested Kriuchkov when he was trying to leave Los Angeles earlier this week.
We do wonder if the Tesla employee received a bonus, given he so bravely refused to take the bribe – a million-dollar one.