Russian National Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Introduce Malware Into A U.S. Company’s Computer Network
RENO, Nev. — A Russian national made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday for his role in a conspiracy to recruit an employee of a company to introduce malicious software into the company’s computer network, extract data from the network, and extort ransom money from the company, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “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.”
“In this matter, the FBI was once again able to intervene before any damage could occur,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse. “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.”
Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov, 27, a citizen of Russia, was charged in awith one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer. He was arrested on August 22, 2020, in Los Angeles and had his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, who ordered Kriuchkov detained pending trial.
According to the complaint and statements made in court, from about July 15, 2020 to about August 22, 2020, Kriuchkov conspired with associates to recruit an employee of a company to introduce malware — i.e., malicious software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system — into the company’s computer network. 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.
Kriuchkov entered the United States using his Russian passport and a tourist visa. He contacted and met with the employee numerous times to discuss the conspiracy. Kriuchkov promised to pay the employee $1 million dollars after the malware was introduced. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Kriuchkov provided the employee with a burner phone, and instructed him to leave the burner phone in airplane mode until after the money was transferred.
After being contacted by the FBI, Kriuchkov drove overnight from Reno to Los Angeles. Kriuchkov asked an acquaintance to purchase an airline ticket for him in an attempt to fly out of the country.
Kriuchkov faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only.
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct for purposes of establishing probable cause, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation was led by the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office with assistance by the FBI Los Angeles Field Office; the FBI Sacramento Field Office; the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office; and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Casper and Candina Heath, Senior Counsel of CCIPS, are prosecuting the case.