Tesla Is The Unnamed Company Targeted By Indicted Russian Hacker, Musk Attests

Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk confirmed late Thursday that the automaker was the subject of a hacking attempt by a Russian national and his co-conspirators. 

What Happened: "This was a serious attack," the billionaire entrepreneur said in response to a media report related to the attempted hacking on Twitter.

A complaint was filed this week by prosecutors in Nevada against Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a Russian national, who allegedly conspired to recruit an employee at an unnamed company, in order to surreptitiously install malware on its computers.

Musk's tweet confirms the company detailed in the lawsuit is, in fact, Tesla.

Kriuchkov approached the employee who had access to the company’s computers through Facebook Inc FB owned WhatsApp messaging app on July 16 to arrange a visit to its Nevada location, prosecutors allege.

The complaint states that Kriuchkov and a group of Tesla employees were in touch with each other between August 1-3 and went on a trip to Lake Tahoe, where the alleged hacker refused to be photographed.

Subsequent to the excursion, which was paid for by Kriuchkov, the Russian national asked to do “business.” 

When the employee met Kriuchkov subsequently at a bar on Aug. 3, he was asked to install malware on his company’s computers, which would exfiltrate data and release to the Russian’s group, the complaint alleges.

The two met subsequently at another location in a vehicle and were observed by the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the employee had consented to the surveillance. During this meeting, the alleged hacker made an inducement of $1 million in cash or Bitcoin to the employee, raising the amount from a proposed $500,000 earlier during their discussions at the bar.

On August 19, the employee wearing a listening device from the FBI met with Kriuchkov, who offered him a $11,000 advance. The alleged hacker then told the Gigafactory worker that the project was delayed and related payments would be made at a later time as well. The FBI in the meantime got in touch with Kriuchkov, who attempted to leave the United States and was arrested on Aug. 22 in Los Angeles, the prosecutors said.

Why It Matters:The Russian and his co-conspirators planned to hold the target company for ransom and reveal the data they obtained through illegal means, according to the complaint.
Musk said the employee's efforts in helping thwart the hack attempt were "much appreciated."

Last month, a “spear-phishing” attack on Twitter Inc’s TWTR was said to be responsible for the compromise of several high-profile social media accounts on that platform including that of Musk and former President Barack Obama.

Price Action: Tesla shares closed nearly 4% higher at 2,238.75 on Thursday and gained 0.37% in the after-hours session.

Photo Courtesy: Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.

Posted In: cyber hackersCybersecurityElon MuskFederal Bureau of InvestigationGiga NevadaGigafactoryJustice DepartmentRussian hackersNewsLegalEventsTech