A former web producer for a Tribune Company-owned television station in Sacramento, Calif., was charged today in an indictment for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacker group “Anonymous” to hack into and alter a Tribune Company website, the Justice Department announced.
Matthew Keys, 26, of Secaucus, N.J., was charged in the Eastern District of California with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer.
Keys was employed by Sacramento-based television station KTXL FOX 40, as its web producer, but was terminated in late October 2010.
The three-count indictment alleges that in December 2010 Keys provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to KTXL FOX 40’s corporate parent, the Tribune Company. According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server.
After providing log-in credentials, Keys encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. At least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and ultimately that hacker made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.
The indictment further alleges that Keys had a conversation with the hacker who claimed credit for the defacement of the Los Angeles Times website. The hacker told Keys that Tribune Company system administrators had thwarted his efforts and locked him out. Keys attempted to regain access for that hacker, and when he learned that the hacker had made changes to a Los Angeles Times page, Keys responded, “nice.”
Each of the two substantive counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Keys, who is currently a deputy social media editor at Thomas Reuters, commented the charges on his Twitter account:
According to the indictment, Keys contacted with an Anonymous member by the nick “Sharpie,” believed to be Hector Xavier “Sabu” Monsegur, the LulzSec leader arrested a year ago that turned out to be an FBI informant.
According to Buzzfeed, Sabu outed Keys in a tweet two years ago, by writing “http://tinyurl.com/mattkeysexposed/AESCracked/Matt Keys was former producer for Tribune sites. Gave full control of LATimes.com to hackers.”