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Russian Man Pleads Guilty to Role in Attempt to Plant Malware on Tesla Systems

The Russian national who attempted to convince a Tesla employee to plant malware on the company’s computers has pleaded guilty, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday.

Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, 27, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer. He initially faced up to five years in prison, but he will likely get a lighter sentence as a result of his plea agreement.

Kriuchkov is accused of conspiring with others to convince an employee of Tesla to plant malware on the electric car maker’s network as part of a ransomware attack. They had also planned on launching a DDoS attack to distract the company while the malware allowed them to steal valuable data.

The Russian traveled to the U.S. in July 2020 on a tourist visa and contacted the targeted Tesla employee, who was located in Nevada, shortly after.

The employee was initially offered $500,000 for his assistance, but the offer was later doubled. Even so, the employee decided to inform Tesla about the cybercriminals’ plan and the company notified the FBI, which organized a sting operation.

Kriuchkov was arrested in August 2020 and in September he pleaded not guilty. He will be sentenced on May 10.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.