Russian national Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov has pleaded guilty in a US federal court for his role in a conspiracy to persuade a Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) employee to sabotage the company’s computer network.
Court documents show that the 27-year-old intended to persuade a Russian-speaking, non-US citizen employee at Tesla’s Gigafactory Nevada to inject a malicious software into the company’s computers.
Once the malware is installed, the hacker and his conspirators would use the malware to siphon data from the network and then extort money from the electric vehicle maker with threats to release the information they gathered.
Kriuchkov traveled from Russia to Nevada to entice the employee to participate in the scheme with an offer to pay in bitcoin (BTC).
According to Teslarati, the unnamed worker was promised $500,000, which was later raised to $1 million, exchanging for doing the dirty job. The employee, however, decided to report the plan to Tesla, which in turn contacted the FBI.
“The swift response of the company and the FBI prevented a major exfiltration of the victim company’s data and stopped the extortion scheme at its inception,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “This case highlights the importance of companies coming forward to law enforcement, and the positive results when they do so.”
Kriuchkov pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. His sentence is set on May 10.
Trade secret thefts
The attempt to steal data from Tesla comes amid growing incidents of trade secret thefts.
In February, a Hong Kong-based businessman was also indicted for conspiring to steal data involving General Electric’s silicon carbide MOSFET technology worth millions of dollars.
According to the indictment, the accused planned to steal GE’s sensitive technology and produce it in China.
Acting US Attorney Christopher Chiou for the District of Nevada says Kriuchkov’s case highlights their commitment to protecting the trade secrets and confidential data of businesses in the US. He also assured that they will continue their work in stopping cybercriminals from harming American companies and consumers.