Report: Russia Tried To Bribe Tesla Employees To Plant Ransomware

The FBI has arrested Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov for bribing a Tesla employee with the intent to plant ransomware in the company’s computer system. The plan would allow the Russian hacker to steal confidential information. Then he could threaten to release Tesla data online if it didn’t pay a large ransom to prevent them from doing it. 

Kriuchkov met the employee back in 2016. He contacted him to set up a visit in South Lake Tahoe. It is about 200 miles from the Tesla headquarters. A group photo with him and others was taken which verifies he was there on that date. After the group left he wanted to talk to the employee about “business.”

The Tesla employee contacted the FBI about the ransomware bribe

Kriuchkov said he worked on “special projects” for a Russian group that targeted American companies with ransomware. He offered the employee $500,000 in cash or BitCoins for help in planting the ransomware. The Tesla employee contacted the FBI as soon as Kriuchkov left.

Another meeting was set up a few days later that was monitored by the FBI. One of the surprising things Kriuchkov revealed was that the American accomplice from another job done a few years earlier still worked at the company. The FBI told the employee to ask for $1 million to help Kriuchkov and $50,000 up front. Kriuchkov scheduled a meeting for a few days later presumably to bring the money. 

At this meeting, Kriuchkov balked at paying so much to a co-conspirator. He said the main person from the Russian company would only receive $2 million. They had also never paid anyone in advance. Another surprise was he said one member of the group “is a high-level employee of a government bank in Russia.”  

Four other ransomware meetings took place between August 18-21

Tesla Gigifactory | Tesla
Tesla Gigifactory | Tesla

How Did Bandits Make Off With $2.7 Million Worth Of Dodges?

After this meeting, there were four others taking place between August 18-21 according to DriveTeslaCanada who first broke the story. Kriuchkov was preparing to leave as he needed to return to Russia. He left a burner phone with the employee to continue communications. While establishing a BitCoin wallet he saw a phone number for Sasha Skarobogatov. He was known to the FBI having been involved in other ransomware cases.

While preparing to take a flight back to Russia Kriuchkov was arrested by the FBI. He is in prison while he waits for his trial. It is expected that he will reveal other members of the group to receive a lesser sentence. The expectation is this will become an international investigation with many more arrests. 

We should note that the company targeted was never revealed in the FBI files. It is assumed to be Tesla due to where Kriuchkov moved around while in the US and also because Tesla is the largest EV manufacturer.