Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that Matthew Keys, a journalist and social media editor for Thomson Reuters, has been charged with conspiring to attack a website with hackers from the Anonymous collective.
According to the indictment (available in full in a PDF format), Keys has been indicted for revealing the log-in information to the Los Angeles Times website and then encouraging hackers to disrupt the server. At least one hacker did enter the site and make changes to a story from Dec. 14, 2010, titled “Pressure builds in House to pass tax-cut package.”
Keys, 26, allegedly made contact with the hackers in an Internet chat room and identified himself as an employee of the Tribune company, which owns the L.A. Times. L.A. Times Web producer Morgan Little tweeted a screenshot of the article Keys allegedly enabled the hacker, known only as “sharpie,” to edit.
Prosecutors said the incident occurred in 2010 when Keys was an employee at the California TV station Fox 40 (also owned by the Tribune Company). He’s also accused of using the screen name AESCracked to incite hackers to “go f**k some s***t up.”
“If convicted, Keys faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 for each count,” reads a statement from the Justice Department. “The indictment also contains a notice of forfeiture provision for property traceable to the offense.”
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Reuters spokesperson David Giradin told Dylan Byers of POLITICO that the company was “looking into” the matter.
Keys has long been a voice of considerable influence regarding social media and the hacking culture. He was named in Forbes reporter Parmy Olson’s 2012 book “We Are Anonymous” and his Twitter account was ranked among Time magazine’s Top 140 Twitter accounts of 2012.
He was also named in a Gawker report last year indicating Keys was known to have infiltrated chat rooms where high-level members of Anonymous would plan potential attacks. Keys responded on his Tumblr page shortly after the Gawker post and a year after prosecutors say he provided “sharpie” access to the Tribune site.
“I provided Gawker with just one of dozens of logs that were taken during my two-month access to top level hackers within Anonymous. In addition to providing Gawker with one log, I provided the PBS NewsHour with a record back in December,” Keys wrote.
“I identified myself as a journalist during my interaction with the top-level Anonymous hackers and at no time did I offer said individuals any agreement of confidentiality. In fact, I asked several of them for their feelings should they be exposed. They seemed, by and large, indifferent.”
Reuters has issued a news bulletin describing the indictment but has yet to release a statement regarding Keys’ indictment.
Update: Keys tweeted about his situation.
I am fine. I found out the same way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I'm going to take a break. Tomorrow, business as usual.
— Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys) March 14, 2013