On Thursday, March 14, 2013, the United States Department of Justice indicted Reuters Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys on three counts of hacking related felonies. Keys is accused of helping Anonymous hack the Tribune Company and one of its publications, The LA Times. If convicted, Mr. Keys is facing the possibility of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Keys, a resident of Sacramento, California will be arraigned on April 12, 2013 in Sacramento, and he is being defended by Michael Petrik of the Office of the Federal Defender for the eastern district of California.
According to the DOJ, Keys, 26, first contacted the Anonymous hacking collective after he was terminated from his web producer job at the Sacramento television station KTXS-Fox 40. In December of 2010, Keys is alleged to have entered an online forum under the alias of AESCracked and encouraged Anonymous members to “go f— some shit up.”
Keys is accused of providing an Anonymous member with a username and password that would allow the hackers to access the content management system of Fox 40 and the LA Times. One hacker known as Sharpie later told Keys that he “had a whole front page layout made for the Chicago Tribune, but there [sic] sysadmins were good” and quickly removed him from the system. Another hacker claimed he changed a story on the LA Times website after gaining access by using the information he received from Mr. Keys.
While the Justice Department moved forward with the charges, Mr. Keys proclaimed his innocence He insisted that all his contacts with Anonymous were made in the capacity of an investigative journalist. Prior to the events that led to his indictment, Keys even mentioned the LA Times hack in an article for Reuters, but he gave no indication of any involvement with the hackers. According to Keys, “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.”
After the news of Keys indictment was made public, Reuters issued a brief statement about the case against their employee:
“We are aware of the charges brought by the Department of Justice against Matthew Keys, an employee of our news organization. Thomson Reuters is committed to obeying the rules and regulations in every jurisdiction in which it operates. Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012, and while investigations continue we will have no further comment.”
Despite the pressure of pending Federal charges, Keys seems to be upbeat and optimistic. Earlier this afternoon, he made the following post to his Twitter feed:
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