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Press Release

Richmond Resident Convicted Of Hacking Into Online Newspaper’s Account And Causing Damage

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendant redirected corporate email and canceled web domains

SAN JOSE – A federal jury returned a verdict yesterday against Ross Colby, finding him guilty of three counts of computer intrusion, one count of attempting to damage a protected computer, and one count of intentionally damaging a protected computer, announced Acting United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The verdict was delivered by the jury after a six-day trial before the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S District Judge.

According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial Colby, 35, of Richmond, Calif., illegally accessed the web accounts of San Francisco Bay Area print and online newspaper publisher Embarcadero Media.  Embarcadero Media is the Palo Alto-based parent company of numerous Bay Area newspaper publications, including Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly, and The Almanac in Menlo Park.  In September of 2015, the FBI was asked to investigate the computer intrusion after Embarcadero’s news websites were replaced with a picture of Guy Fawkes, the image associated with “Anonymous,” a hacking collective.  Investigators found that in July of 2015, Colby accessed Embarcadero’s corporate email and obtained the contents of an account belonging to an Embarcadero employee.  Then, in September of 2015, Colby used the information from the email account to disrupt Embarcadero’s operations.  Among the actions that Colby carried out were to cancel Embarcadero’s domain names and change the publisher’s mail exchange records to redirect its corporate email.  At trial, a witness testified that this conduct caused approximately $32,000 in damages and remediation costs to Embarcadero Media.

On April 6, 2017, a federal grand jury in San Jose indicted Colby and charged him with three counts of misdemeanor computer intrusion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C); one count of felony attempt to damage a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(ii); and one count of felony intentional damage to a protected computer, in violation of §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(i).  Pursuant to yesterday’s verdict, Colby was found guilty of all the charges.

Colby is free on bail, pending sentencing.  Judge Koh scheduled Colby’s sentencing for September 19, 2018.  Colby faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the felony counts and up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each of the misdemeanor charges.  In addition to the prison terms and fines, the court also may order Colby to serve an additional period of supervised release, pay restitution, and pay other monetary penalties.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Knight and Joseph Springsteen are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lakisha Holliman and Elise Etter.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.   

Updated June 7, 2018