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Russian national charged in plot to infect Nevada company with malware

Updated August 25, 2020 - 3:25 pm

RENO — A Russian national was arrested in Los Angeles over the weekend on a charge of attempting to infect a Nevada company with malware and hold its data for ransom, the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, a 27-year-0ld Russian citizen, is facing one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer.

Authorities believe Kriuchkov tried to recruit an employee of an unnamed company in Nevada, identified in court documents only as “Victim Company A,” to infect malware into the company’s computer network. Kriuchkov is accused of offering to pay the employee once the virus had been transmitted.

“The malware would supposedly provide Kriuchkov and his co-conspirators with access to the company’s system. After the malware was introduced, Kriuchkov and his co-conspirators would extract data from the network and then threaten to make the information public, unless the company paid their ransom demand,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Kriuchkov’s attorney, Deputy Federal Public Defender Reid Rowe, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“As Nevada’s economy diversifies and evolves into a center for technological innovation, our office will continue to prioritize protecting trade secrets and other confidential information belonging to U.S. businesses,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said in a statement. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to holding accountable anyone who plots to use malicious cyber tactics to harm American consumers and companies.”

Kriuchov entered the U.S. on a tourist visa on July 28, according to court documents. He had started talking to the employee via the WhatsApp messaging app some two weeks before entering the U.S.

Once he had arrived in Reno, Kruichkov and the employee met several times, including one night that ended after the two “drank heavily until last call” at a Reno bar.

Kriuchkov told the employee during a meeting that had been recorded by the FBI that he and his group had made successful malware attacks against other companies, including one that paid $4 million to the group.

He was arrested Saturday in Los Angeles and made his first appearance in federal court there Monday.

“In this matter, the FBI was once again able to intervene before any damage could occur,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively pursue any person or entity that attempts to inflict damage to American business or enterprise, no matter who or where.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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