Former journalist faces 25 years in prison for article defacement

Matthew Keys, a former Reuters social media editor, has been found guilty of computer hacking, and could be sentenced to spend as many as 25 years in prison.

Keys was indicted in March 2013 for conspiring with members of the hacker group Anonymous to hack into and alter the website of the Tribune Company-owned KTXL FOX 40 television station in Sacramento, California, for which he worked as a web producer until late October 2010, when he was terminated.

A California jury decided that he did, as accused, share on an IRC channel frequented by hackers the login credentials to the server hosting the site, and urged Anonymous members to tamper with Tribune Company-owned websites.

A member of the collective took the invitation, and made changes to an article on the Los Angeles Times website.

The changed article was online only 40 minutes, but according to Tribune and the US government, this ultimately resulted in the company having to spend nearly a million dollars in order to minimize the damage and prevent further attacks of this kind.

Keys was indicted on and found guilty of three separate charges under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA). Theoretically, he’s looking at a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, but the US Attorneys Office has apparently indicated that they will ask the sentencing court for a sentence of less than 5 years.

Keys says he will be appealing the conviction. If he fails, sentencing will be performed as scheduled in January 2016.

The verdict elicited a comment from Edward Snowden, who pointed out the absurdity of someone facing such a long sentence for “a crime whose impact was measured in minutes.”

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