Russian man admits ransomware plot against Tesla in Nevada

National

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nev. A Russian citizen has pleaded guilty to offering a Tesla employee $1 million to get malware into the electric car company’s plant in Nevada and enable a ransomware attack. Attorneys representing Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov did not immediately respond Friday, March 19, 2021, to messages about his Thursday plea in U.S. District Court in Reno. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Russian man has pleaded guilty to offering a Tesla employee $1 million to get computer malware into the electric car company’s massive electric battery plant in Nevada for a ransomware attack that never happened, according to court records.

Federal public defenders representing Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov did not immediately respond Friday to messages seeking details about his plea entered Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno.

Kriuchkov, 27, told a judge in September that he knew the Russian government was aware of his case. Prosecutors and the FBI have not alleged he had ties to the Kremlin.

Kriuchkov is expected to face no more than 10 months in prison under terms of his plea agreement.

He has been in custody for seven months, since his arrest in August in Los Angeles. Prosecutors have said he was heading to an airport to fly out of the country when he was detained.

The FBI said the plot was stopped before any damage happened.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his company was the target of what he termed a serious effort to collect company secrets.

Cybersecurity experts have called the case highly unusual because it alleged that a ransomware syndicate tried to recruit an insider to physically plant malware.

Most hacks happen when people use the internet to compromise networks, said Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst at cybersecurity firm Emsisoft.

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