Fashion Hacker Identified, Forced to Pay Condé Nast $12,500 in Damages

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Ross Ulrich's Facebook picture and a W cover that he posted to the Fashion Spot. Photo: Courtesy of the Smoking Gun/Conde Nast

The FBI raided the Ohio home of a 22-year-old community college student and his parents earlier this year to investigate whether he was tied to the hacking of Condé Nast's computer system. Ross Ulrich confessed to agents on the spot that he had illegally downloaded more than 1,100 files from Condé Nast in late 2009, including unpublished covers of several magazines, such as GQ, Vogue, Lucky, and Teen Vogue. He had subsequently posted the images on the Fashion Spot, where Condé Nast discovered them and demanded their removal. He later posted more images to the online forum Fashionzag, which has since been shut down.

Ulrich told the Smoking Gun that he had gained access to the Condé Nast system by just "poking around" on the Internet, where he found a list of the publishing company's FTP sites and passwords from a simple Google search. Upon realizing that their systems had been breached, Condé found that their servers had been accessed repeatedly over a three-month period from a single IP address that had downloaded hundreds of files, which all matched the images that had been leaked. The company filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement, and the FBI traced the IP address to Ulrich's father.

Ulrich says that he has paid Condé Nast $12,500 to settle their copyright claim, but he doesn't know if he'll be charged formally by federal prosecutors. Meanwhile, he's not so interested in fashion anymore.

Noting that while he once subscribed to Vogue and several other Conde Nast titles (and was a “starred” commenter on The Fashion Spot), Ulrich said his legal troubles have impacted his enthusiasm for such things. “I’m kind of over it,” he said, adding that he hoped federal investigators realize that he has learned his lesson.

FBI Probe IDs Conde Nast "Hacker" [TSG]