Reuters Employee Charged With Helping Anonymous Hack Tribune Co.

Matthew Keys Twitter page Screengrab - P 2013

Matthew Keys Twitter page Screengrab - P 2013

Thomson Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys has been indicted on three hacking-related felony counts for allegedly helping the hacking group Anonymous gain access to his former employer, the Tribune Co.

The Justice Department charges that in December 2010, Keys posted a username and password on an online forum frequented by the group he claimed would give its user access to content management systems used by the Los Angeles Times and the Tribune-owned Fox affiliate KTXL-TV Sacramento, from which he had recently been terminated, Forbes reports.

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Keys allegedly instructed the hackers to "go f--- some shit up” when he posted the information under the username AESCracked. One hacker said he changed a Times story using the login information Keys had given him. Keys later wrote on the message board he had been “locked out for good” as his account had been shut off, according to the indictment.

Keys faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. His arraignment is set for April 12 in Sacramento, and he is being defended by Michael Petrik of the Office of the Federal Defender for the eastern district of California.

On Thursday, Keys tweeted:

Keys previously cooperated with a 2011 Gawker profile on Anonymous, where the site identified him as a journalist who had infiltrated the group. But in a blog post (which has since been deleted), Keys disputed the notion that he had infiltrated the group.

“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,” Keys wrote. "In fact, I asked several of them for their feelings should they be exposed. They seemed, by and large, indifferent."

In Reuters' own coverage of the story, a spokesman was quoted as saying: "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."

The Reuters story says the company did not comment on the employment status of Keys, but an employee in the New York office in which he worked said the embattled employee's computer was being dismantled and his security access had been revoked.

The outlet reports the case began in December 2010 after Fox 40 received a strange email saying it had an internal list of employees. According to an FBI affidavit, a former colleague of Keys' put him forward as a suspect because after being terminated, Keys did not hand over control of the station's social media accounts he had manned.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Reuters for comment.