Skip to main content

Reuters Journalist Charged with Conspiring with Anonymous

The LA Times paints an obvious picture of sheer revenge that has landed a Reuters editor in jail. He was fired from his job at a Sacramento TV station, and allegedly took to hacktivist group Anonymous to serve up a plate of payback. Now he faces prison and hefty fines.

The hacking incident actually took place back in December 2010 when 26-year-old Matthew Keys, currently a deputy social media editor for Reuters, served as a web producer for KTXL FOX 40, a TV station owned by LA Times parent company, Tribune Co. Keys was reportedly terminated in late October for unspecified reasons.

According to the Department of Justice, Keys allegedly identified himself on an Internet chat forum (likely IRC) and provided members of Anonymous with log-in credentials for a Tribune-owned server. The intent was for the group to "disrupt," or rather deface, the TV station's website.

At least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Co. server. Ultimately, that hacker also made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.

"Keys had a conversation with the hacker who claimed credit for the defacement of the Los Angeles Times website," the DoJ said. "The hacker allegedly told Keys that Tribune Company system administrators had thwarted his efforts and locked him out.  Keys allegedly 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.'"

Keys was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury in Sacramento. He has been charged 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. He is scheduled to be arraigned on April 12 in Sacramento.

The DoJ said that 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.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, the DoJ said. The case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, is United States of America v. Matthew Keys, 13-82.

UPDATE: Thompson Reuters just suspended Keys, but with pay. According to the report, he joined Reuters in January 2012 and worked in New York while living in New Jersey. The alleged hacking incidents took place before he joined Reuters, the company said.