Reuters social media editor may face jail time for colluding with Anonymous to deface Tribune site

matthew keys

Matthew Keys, the social media editor for Reuters, has been accused of colluding with members of Anonmyous to hack into a Tribune Company website back in December 2010.

He’s been charged with three counts of illegal transmission of information and if convicted will get up to 10-15 years behind bars. How Keys was involved, according to a press release by The Department of Justice, was that he gave members of Anonymous the log-in information of Tribune Company’s servers in a chat room. He was privy to that information in the first place since he was once employed by Tribune company affiliate, KTXL FOX 40, until October 2010.

In case you’re curious about what the charges are, here are the relevant parts from the DOJ’s release:

“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…

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.”

Anonymous hacked the Tribune company’s servers as planned in December and planted a new headline titled “Pressure Builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337,” which was for a feature story on the Website version of the article. The financial damage coming out of this attack was reportedly valued at $5,000. 

Keys, judging from his Twitter account, seems to be handling the serious situation well. He’s been fielding questions from bystanders, and notes that how he’s found out how the indictment in the first place was through Twitter. He tweeted, “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.”

There’s an intrigue about the underbelly of the Internet where hackers and miscreants linger around. And based on the prosecutor’s statement, which notes that Keys wanted to learn “how to alter and damage” the servers, this curiosity could have been what motivated Keys to divulge his old account credentials in the first place to Anonymous members. But right now Keys is merely being accused of these crimes, although the accusation has been enough for Reuters to suspend him. His lawyer argues he’s the victim of outdated computer laws, and that he was working as an undercover journalist and thus his actions are justified. Still, his sordid Internet past may also hurt his case – as does any affiliation with Anonymous.