Earlier this week, US authorities arrested and charged a Russian national who traveled to the US with the intention of recruiting and convincing a Nevada company employee to install malware on the network from his employer, in exchange for a million dollars.
Elon Musk confirms Tesla was targeted
Although no indictment specifically names the targeted company, several media specializing in the world of electric cars now assume that the attack most likely targeted the American automaker Tesla, which operates a gigantic factory in Sparks, Nevada.
Tesla did not respond to our request for comment on the matter, but Elon Musk officially confirmed that this plot was targeting his business in a tweet earlier today:
“Full of recognition. It was a serious attack, ”said Elon Musk, responding to one of the many news articles speculating that Tesla was being targeted.
The goal was to steal sensitive information to demand a ransom
This attack corresponds to a rare case of use by hackers of “malicious insiders” (malicious infiltrators, editor’s note). This term is used in the cybersecurity industry to describe dishonest employees.
According to court documents, a 27-year-old Russian named Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov contacted one of Tesla’s employees via WhatsApp, after the two met four years ago, in 2016.
Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov said he was on vacation in the United States and arranged a meeting between the two, the Russian hacker traveling to Reno for this purpose.
In several meetings, Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov revealed to the Tesla employee that he was working with a Russian-based hacker group and offered to install custom malware on Tesla’s internal network.
Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov explained that the malware, which the group spent $ 250,000 to build, would exfiltrate data from Tesla’s network, and upload it to a remote server. The plan was to steal sensitive files from Tesla and then threaten to disclose the data unless Tesla pays a huge ransom note.
The employee quickly approached the FBI
The employee, who the FBI described as a Russian-speaking immigrant, informed Tesla and the FBI of the proposal after his first meeting with Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov.
Subsequent meetings were recorded and documented in the indictment, including the employee negotiating his share of $ 500,000 to $ 1 million. But also how the Russian-based hacker gang delayed the Tesla hack for later this fall because they had infiltrated another company and needed to focus on the current target.
FBI agents arrested Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov as he attempted to leave the United States via Los Angeles over the weekend, and charged him on Monday. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison for his involvement in the project.