US Arrests Tourist Over Malware Conspiracy

A man on vacation in Nevada has been charged with conspiracy after allegedly offering an employee $1m to infect their company's computer network with ransomware.

Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov was arrested in Los Angeles on August 22 and charged with one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer. The 27-year-old Russian was in the United States on a tourist visa at the time of the alleged offense.

Statements given before a federal court on Monday accuse Kriuchkov of working with co-conspirators from July 15, 2020, to August 22, 2020, to recruit an employee of a company in Nevada. Kriuchkov's alleged plan was to pay the employee to surreptitiously infect the company with malware that would give Kriuchkov and his co-conspirators access to the organization’s computer system. 

A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice said: "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 contacted the employee via WhatsApp on or about July 16. After arriving in the United States on or about July 28, Kriuchkov allegedly met with the employee numerous times to discuss the conspiracy. 

The alleged meetings took place at the employee's residence and at public locations. Kriuchkov allegedly invited the employee to participate in a "special project" with him and his co-conspirators.

The Russian tourist allegedly offered to pay the employee $1m to successfully introduce the malware into the company's network. The employee was allegedly told that Kriuchkov's co-conspirators would launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack to divert attention from the malware.

Kriuchkov allegedly provided the employee with a burner phone and instructed him to leave the device in airplane mode until after the money had been transferred. The employee was allegedly advised to download Tor Browser and set up a Bitcoin wallet to receive the payment. 

After being contacted by the FBI regarding the alleged conspiracy, Kriuchkov attempted to flee the country. He drove overnight from Reno, Nevada, to Los Angeles and asked an acquaintance to buy him an airline ticket out of the United States.

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