The Tesla Nevada factory has been the target of a serious cyber attack. This was confirmed in a tweet by the CEO Elon Musk of the electric car making company while replying to an article on the company’s website Teslarati. According to court documents unsealed now, the FBI had taken up the investigations and the attack had been foiled.
Ransomware hackers have been hyper-active in recent times, taking advantage of the lockdown environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where workers have to work remotely from various locations. According to an Interpol report of April 2020, the hackers encrypt the files of the victims and demand massive ransom to unlock them. They also threaten to post these files, which often contain classified commercial information on the Internet.
The ransom demanded has to be paid in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. The reason why the hackers take the digital currency route is that the payments are entirely untraceable and the receivers get away scot-free. As per FBI estimates, victims in the last six years have paid almost $140 million to ransomware operators.
The Tesla case, too, follows a similar pattern. According to the Department of Justice, a group of hackers under a 27-year old Russian citizen Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov planned out this move. Egor got in touch with a Russian-speaking employee at the Tesla factory in Nevada over the WhatsApp message and offered him $1 million in Bitcoin to install the malware in the computer network. It would have enabled the hackers to take out the data from the computer system and later use it to threaten the company into paying large sums of money to prevent it from going online.
However, the employee refused to fall into the trap and instead informed other co-workers, who, in turn, informed the FBI. Egor was arrested on August 22 from Los Angeles and charged with cybercrime. If Egor is found guilty, he could face up to 5 years in prison.
Tesla today is in an envious position. As of July 2020, it is the biggest car company globally in terms of value, with a market capitalization of around $465 billion. The price of shares of the company has risen by an amazing six-fold this year, powering the personal fortune of owner and CEO over the $100 billion mark.
However, Tesla is way behind the competitors in sales. General Motors dwarf its production of 360,000 cars with 7.7 million cars.