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A Russian man has pleaded guilty in the United States to giving Tesla a $ 1 million job to cripple a Nevada power plant with ransomware and steal the company’s secrecy secrets, prosecutors and court records said.
In a case in which cybersecurity experts called them differently for the risks they face, Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov pleaded guilty on Thursday in the U.S. Regional Court. EReno. The court-appointed public defender, Chris Frey, declined to comment on Friday.
Prosecutors allege that Kriuchkov collaborated with a conspiracy abroad and tried to use face-to-face bribery to get someone inside to install ransomware, hacking information into targeted networks and could only be unlocked with the software key provided by the attackers. Often, rescue teams operating from secure locations access the victim’s networks online and download the data before using the ransom.
“The fact that such an accident was taken may, in fact, suggest that this was a spy operation aimed at obtaining information rather than a fraudulent activity aimed at making money,” said Brett Callow, a cybersecurity analyst at anti-virus software company Emsisoft.
“It is also possible that criminals thought that gambling was right and decided to roll the dice,” Callow said.
Charles Carmakal, chief technology officer at a security company at FireEye, agreed. “It could have been done from thousands of miles away without compromising any property,” he said.
The FBI said the plot was suspended before the damage was done.
Kriuchkov, 27, told a judge in September that he knew the Russian government was aware of his case. But prosecutors and the FBI have never suspected any involvement with the Kremlin. Kriuchkov is in government custody at Wasashoe prison in Reno.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to damage a computer securely and could face up to five years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine. But he is expected to face no more than 10 months according to his written agreement.
He has been in custody for seven months, since his arrest in August in Los Angeles. State officials say he was on his way to the airport to exit the country.
“The immediate response of the company and the FBI prevented the massive destruction of the victim’s company information and halted the fraud process at its inception,” Acting Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid said in a statement. “This case underscores the importance of companies that are at the forefront of the legal profession, as well as the positive outcomes of doing so.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has admitted that his company is responsible for what he calls a major effort to collect company secrets. Tesla has a large factory near Reno that makes batteries for electric cars and power stations. Company representatives did not respond immediately to Friday’s messages.
Court documents state that Kriuchkov was in the United States for more than five weeks in July and last August with a Russian passport and a tourist visa when he tried to hire an employee of the so-called “Company A” to install software that allowed computer hacking.
The employee, anonymous, would receive payments in the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
No other co-accused have been charged in this case. Others have been identified in the criminal complaint with nicknames including Kisa and Pasha, and the man has been named Sasha Skarobogatov.
Other meetings were monitored and recorded by the FBI, according to court documents. It was not clear from court records whether the money had changed hands.
In court papers, Kriuchkov was quoted as saying that the internal work would be concealed by the ban on computer hacking. Such attacks overtake servers with unhealthy traffic. If Tesla does not pay, the purified data will be discarded online.
The documents also state that Kriuchkov told a potential job applicant that he had done similar “special jobs” with other companies several times, and that one had fallen victim to $ 4 million.