The attack, foiled by the FBI, was planned by a Russian national, court documents unsealed last week have shown.
Elon Musk confirmed in a tweet that an employee at a Tesla factory in Nevada was offered $1 million and an upfront payment of 1 bitcoin to install ransomware software on Tesla’s computer network.
However, the employee didn’t carry out the plan and instead alerted other Tesla staff who contacted the FBI. The FBI arrested Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a 27-year-old Russian man, on August 22 in Los Angeles. Kriuchkov was charged last week and faces up to five years in prison for his role in the scheme if found guilty.
“This was a serious attack,” Musk, who was among many high-profile Twitter users to be targeted in a bitcoin-based scam in July, said via the micro-blogging network, replying to a news report posted by a Tesla-focused website.
Bitcoin, despite its growing mainstream popularity, is a favorite tool of cyber criminals, with victims thought to have paid out over $140 million to ransomware operators over the past six years, according to the FBI.
Ransomware hackers, who encrypt their victims’ files before demanding bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to unlock them, have increased their attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, Interpol reported in April, with criminals taking advantage of an influx of remote workers.
Tesla, now boasting an eye-watering market capitalization of around $465 billion, became the world’s biggest car company by value in July after a near six-fold increase in the value of its shares this year—propelling Musk’s personal fortune past $100 billion.
The Palo Alto-based company, whose output is dwarfed by most of its established rivals with General Motors