FBI and Tesla prevent $4 million Bitcoin ransomware scheme. Last week, a criminal complaint against a conspirator was unsealed by the United States Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) in a thwarted ransomware scheme against electric car manufacturer Tesla.
The Bureau arrested 27-year-old Russian citizen Pavel Kriuchkov in Los Angeles on 22 August, who reportedly spent most of his month in the U.S. seeking to hire a Tesla employee at the company’s Gigafactory Nevada site to collude on a mysterious “special project.”
That “special project” came with a bribe of $500,000, later increased to $1 million. In exchange, the staffer was asked to assist in the installation of a targeted malware attack against Tesla. This included a distributed denial of service attack, accompanied by the exfiltration of confidential data from businesses.
The plan was to hold Tesla to a $4 million ransom under threat of dumping the information publicly. However, the anonymous staffer had already alerted Tesla soon after the first with Kriuchkov. Tesla then tipped off the FBI.
A series of August meetings between Kriuchov and the staffer were physically surveilled and wire-tapped by FBI agents. They collected intelligence about the operation while preparations for the cyberattack were being hatched.
According to Kriuchkov’s communications with the staffer, one of the conspirators was a hacker specializing in encryption, who reportedly works as a high level employee of a government bank in Russia.
On Aug. 21, Kriuchov informed the staffer that the attack was being delayed until a later date, and that he would be leaving Nevada the following day. Following his arrest in Los Angeles on Aug. 22, he is now in detention pending trial. Kriuchkov was reportedly being paid $250,000 for his recruitment efforts.
Although Tesla is not specifically identified in the criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Tesla’s news site Teslarati reported that the company was the target. The scheme was recognised by CEO Elon Musk in a tweet.
[image: Michael Geiger]