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Tesla Employee Thwarts Attempted Ransomware Attack

Michael Behr

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Tesla Gigafactory

A Tesla employee was offered $1 million to give hackers access to the company’s computer systems at its Nevada Gigafactory.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has confirmed via Twitter that the company’s Nevada Gigafactory almost fell victim to a major ransomware attack.

His tweet claimed that the attack, which attempted to recruit a Tesla employee, would have been a “serious attack”.

A US Justice Department statement had revealed that a Russian national had attempted to introduce malware into an unnamed US company’s systems with Musk’s tweet confirming that Tesla was the company. Media reports had already suggested that Tesla was the company in question.

The attacker approached a worker at the Tesla Giga Nevada, offering them $1 million to gain access to the company’s systems. Instead, the employee chose to work with the FBI to thwart the attack.

The US Justice Department identified Russian national Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov as the attacker, who has since been arrested. He was charged with conspiring to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.

According to a complaint from the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office, Kriuchkov entered the US on July 28 2020 on a B1/B2 tourist visa after he previously approached the worker, a Russian-speaking non-US citizen, via Whatsapp earlier in the month. He then moved on to Sparks Nevada before both he and the employee, along with some colleagues, met socially. In the next few days, Kriuchkov met with the Tesla worker to discuss ‘business’.

The attack would have seen malware inserted onto Tesla’s computer systems, leading to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack to distract the Tesla information security team. The attackers would then have extracted corporate and network data with the intention of ransoming it back to Tesla.

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The Tesla employee was initially offered $500,000, with the price later rising to $1 million, in either cash or bitcoin. As part of the deal, the employee would have to provide information about Tesla’s network to the conspirators in order to help develop the malware.

The employee subsequently reported the request to Telsa, who informed the FBI. The two coordinated to gain more information from the attacker. The hacker claimed to have extracted a ransom from CWT Travel worth $4.5 million.

Kriuchkov was arrested by the FBI on August 22 after he left Reno, Nevada for Los Angeles. If convicted, he could serve up to five years in prison and be hit with a large fine.

Tesla was previously caught up in data breach, when attackers hit aerospace and industrial manufacturer Visser Precision, which makes parts used by Tesla. When the company was attacked by the DoppelPaymer ransomware, hackers published non-disclosure agreements that the firm had signed with Tesla, as well as plans relating to their products.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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