Crims with ties to Tesla and SpaceX 'fess up to computerized conspiracies

Russian chap tried to crack Tesla security, SpaceX engineer traded dodgy info on dark web stock tipping forums


The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has revealed that two sets of crooks have confessed to conspiracies against companies led by Elon Musk.

One of the incidents saw a Russian national plead guilty to a conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.

Twenty-seven year-old Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov travelled to the US in August 2020 to recruit an employee of an unnamed large Nevada-based company to inject data exfiltrating malware into the system in exchange for Bitcoin or cash worth US$1M dollars. The extracted data was to be used to extort the company in exchange for a ransom, said the official criminal complaint [PDF] filed by the FBI's Las Vegas Field Office.

In response to media reports identifying the company in question as Tesla, Elon Musk appeared to assented to that analysis in a 2020 Tweet.

Whatever the target, the malware would initially have manifested as a distributed denial of Service attack to occupy the company’s computer security staff and conceal a second attack, which would exfiltrate the data from the computer network and into the possession of Kriuchkov’s organization.

The Russian national stated in dealings with his target that he had pulled this stunt off multiple times in other companies. Those efforts started three-and-a-half years before his run at Tesla.

Evidently, Kriuchkov picked the wrong target because the staffer reported the scheme to his employer who then contacted the FBI.

In the other plotline, a Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that a (presumably former) SpaceX engineer named James Roland Jones - aka “Millionaire Mike” - has pled guilty to insider trading.

Jones bought fake social security numbers and other personal identifiable information which he used to establish and operate accounts he used to conduct trades informed by insider information.

"Millionaire Mike" eventually attracted the attention of an undercover FBI employee who tipped him off about activities at a publicly traded US company. Jones/Mike was later observed conducting transactions in the relevant company.

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Jones also faces an action by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has charged him with perpetrating a fraudulent scheme to sell insider tips on the dark web.

The Level II Manufacturing Engineer, according to lingering evidence of his now removed LinkedIn profile, shopped information on dark web stock-tipping marketplaces.

"According to the complaint, several users paying in bitcoin purchased these tips and ultimately traded based on the information Jones provided," the SEC says. Jones faces a maximum of five years in federal prison. Kriuchkov will be sentenced in May. ®

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