Elon Musk confirms that a Russian hacker attempted to recruit Tesla employee to plant ransomware in Telsa Inc.
Big corporations are always a big target for cybercriminals. Off late we have seen how ransomware operators are targeting big companies like Canon, LG, Xerox Corporation, Intel, Garmin, etc. The electric car maker, Tesla Inc was also a target for these ransomware operators according to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk.
Elon Musk said in a tweet Thursday night that the company was targeted by a “serious” ransomware attack that was thwarted by the FBI.
Much appreciated. This was a serious attack.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 27, 2020
The ransomware attack on Tesla was planned by a Russian hacker named Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov. He was arrested by the FBI for offering $1 million to a Tesla employee to plant the ransomware in Tesla computers. Kriuchkov was arrested on August 22 for trying to bribe a million to a Tesla employee.
“Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, 27, a citizen of Russia, was charged in a complaint with one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer. He was arrested on Aug. 22, 2020, in Los Angeles and had his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, California, who ordered Kriuchkov detained pending trial. According to the complaint and statements made in court, from about July 15, 2020 to about Aug. 22, 2020, Kriuchkov conspired with associates to recruit an employee of a company to introduce malware.” states the DoJ’s press release.
Kriuchkov sinister plan was to infect the Tesla factory computers based in Sparks, Nevada, with ransomware cum malware. He also planned a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the Tesla website to convince the Tesla managers about the severity of the ransomware attack and demand more ransom.
The DoJ says that Kriuchkov planned to make Tesla and Musk pay the ransomware after infecting their systems. He also proposed to split the ransom amount with the Tesla employee. While DoJ or FBI didn’t name Tesla Inc in the charge sheet, Musk’s tweet thanking FBI for the arrest confirmed that Kriuchkov’s target was Tesla.
Tesla blog, Teslarati reported about the planned ransomware attack. It didn’t name the employee who was approached by Kriuchkov for recruitment in the malware scheme. “The employee, whose identity has not been revealed, has access to the electric car maker’s computer networks. On July 16, the Russian citizen contacted the Giga Nevada employee through WhatsApp asking to meet with him in Sparks, Nevada.” Teslarati said.
“As noted in a report from Clearance Jobs, the fact that Kriuchkov approached a Russian-speaking, non-US citizen working at Gigafactory Nevada suggests that the team behind the cyberattack attempt has done their research well,“ it added.
Thankfully for Tesla, the employee warned the senior Tesla honchos about the planned attack. Tesla approached the FBI who were able to apprehend Kriuchkov for the attempted malware attack and bribing the Tesla employee.