A Russian national who tried to hack Tesla in a botched multimillion-dollar ransom attempt has pleaded guilty

GettyImages 1229892852Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty ImagesTesla CEO Elon Musk.
  • Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov pleaded guilty to attempting to hack Tesla as part of a cybercrime gang.
  • Kriuchkov traveled from Russia to Nevada to ask a Tesla employee to plant malware in Tesla’s system.
  • The gang planned to extract data and then make the company pay millions of dollars to get it back.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Russian national who tried to hack Tesla last August in a failed ransomware attack has pleaded guilty and could spend up to ten months behind bars, The Record first reported.

In a plea agreement filed Wednesday, Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov agreed to plead guilty for “conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.”

In August, the US Department of Justice accused Kriuchkov of working with a Russian cybercrime gang and offering $US1 ($1) million to an employee at a company in Nevada – identified only as company A – to install malware on the company’s systems. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, confirmed his carmaker was the target, Insider’s Isobel Asher Hamilton reported.

According to his plea agreement, Kriuchkov traveled to the US in late July, and met with an unnamed Tesla employee from Tesla’s Reno, Nevada gigafactory multiple times throughout August. The DOJ said Kriuchkov took the employee out for drinks multiple times. He also provided him with a phone and instructed him to delete their communications, it said.

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In the plea agreement, Kriuchkov said the gang planned to provide the employee with malware to plant in Tesla’s system. The gang would launch a distributed denial of service attack against Tesla to divert the company while the gang extracted data.

The gang would then extort Tesla for a “substantial payment.” Insider reported in August that the ransom would have been around $US4 ($5) million.

Kriuchkov said in his plea agreement that the employee would have been paid for their participation and was offered an advance payment in Bitcoin. The DOJ said that Kriuchkov offered the employee $US1 ($1) million for his role in the ransom.

FBI recordings show that Kriuchkov himself would have been paid $US250,000 ($323,038) for recruiting the employee, The Record reported.

Tesla reportedly contacted the FBI after the employee told Tesla about Kriuchkov’s proposition. The DOJ said that the employee co-operated with the FBI, recording conversations with Kriuchkov when agents couldn’t eavesdrop.

The plea agreement says that a prison sentence of between four and ten months, followed by up to three years of supervised release, would be “appropriate.” After this, Kriuchkov would be reported to Russia. He would also have to pay restitution to Tesla, but wouldn’t have to pay fees, per the agreement. The district court has scheduled Kriuchkov’s sentencing hearing for May 10, The Record reported.

Because of his plea, a jury trial for July has been canceled. If the jury had found him guilty, he could have spent up to five years in prison and be fined up to $US250,000 ($323,038), per the plea agreement.

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