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Tesla’s Nevada factory target of a ‘serious’ cyberattack

Updated August 28, 2020 - 2:38 pm

Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed Thursday that the company’s Nevada factory was the target of a “serious” cybersecurity hack.

Federal prosecutors arrested a Russian national in Los Angeles over the weekend on a charge of attempting to infect an unnamed Nevada company with malware and hold its data for ransom.

Musk confirmed in a tweet Thursday it was the company’s Nevada factory, “This was a serious attack,” he said in the tweet.

Batteries for the Model 3 and other Tesla battery storage products are produced at the Gigafactory in Nevada.

Prosecutors said

Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a 27-year-0ld Russian citizen, tried to recruit a Tesla employee to infect the company’s computer with malware.

Federal authorities were able to thwart the cybersecurity attack after the employee reported Kriuchkov’s plans to Tesla. The company alerted federal authorities, which stepped in and the employee “was recruited by the FBI in August 2020,” according to the criminal complaint.

Kriuchkov is accused of offering to pay the employee $1 million once the malware had been transmitted into the company’s system.

“After the malware was introduced, Kriuchkov and his co-conspirators would extract data from the network and then threaten to make the information public, unless the company paid their ransom demand,” according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In one conversation monitored by the FBI, Kriuchkov told the Tesla employee that he and his group had made successful cyberattacks against other companies, including one that paid $4 million to the group.

On Aug. 19, the FBI recorded Kriuchkov agreeing to pay an advance of $11,000 to the Tesla employee. Two days later, Kriuchkov called the Tesla employee and said that the project was being “delayed” and no payments would be transferred.

According to U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich’s office, Kriuchkov drove overnight from Reno to Los Angeles after being contacted by the FBI. Kriuchkov asked a friend to purchase an airline ticket for him to fly out of the country.

“In this matter, the FBI was once again able to intervene before any damage could occur,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively pursue any person or entity that attempts to inflict damage to American business or enterprise, no matter who or where.”

Shares of Tesla, traded on the Nasdaq, closed down $25.35 Friday to $2,213.40 per share, but share prices were trending upward after hours.

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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