Former Tribune staffer accused of conspiring in Anonymous hack

Federal charges include conspiring with members of the hacker group to disrupt Tribune's Web server

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  Legal

A former Tribune Company employee could face as much as 25 years of jail time over federal charges accusing him of conspiring with members of the hacker group Anonymous to hack into a Tribune website.

Matthew Keys, who according to his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles is deputy social media editor at Thomson Reuters, has been charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information, transmitting information and attempting to transmit information to damage a protected computer, according to a federal indictment filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

If convicted, Keys could face 25 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of US$250,000 for each count, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Keys was previously employed as a Web producer for the Sacramento-based television station KTXL Fox 40, which is owned by Tribune. He was terminated in October 2010, and in December 2010 he gave Anonymous members log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to Tribune, and encouraged them to disrupt the website, the DOJ said.

An Anonymous hacker ultimately made changes to the Web version of a news article by the Los Angeles Times, another Tribune property, the DOJ said. The hacker altered the headline in the story to read, "Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337," according to the indictment.

In an online chat, Keys responded, "nice," according to a transcript included in the indictment.

"It was part of the conspiracy to log in without authorization to Tribune Company's content management system for the purpose of learning how to alter and damage it," the indictment states.

Neither Keys nor Reuters immediately responded to multiple requests for comment. The Tribune Company declined to comment.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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