By Dara Kerr
March 16, 2013
Years after the Los Angeles Times Web site was supposedly defaced by Anonymous, the U.S. government goes after a former employee who allegedly gave hackers the company’s login and password.
When Matthew Keys allegedly handed over the passwords of his former employer to members of the hacker group Anonymous a couple of years ago, he probably didn’t think it would lead to an indictment.
However, the U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Keys was being indicted on three counts: 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.
Keys, 26, currently works as a deputy social media editor at Reuters but used to be a Web producer for the Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times. According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Keys allegedly passed the Tribune Company’s login credentials onto members of Anonymous, who then defaced a news article posted on the Los Angeles Times’ Web site.
“Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server,” the Department of Justice statement says. “After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website.”
The indictment claims that Keys went by the name AESCracked in the chat forum and had conversations with the hacker who claimed to have attacked the Los Angeles Times Web site.
The site’s defacement involved the hacker changing an article’s headline, byline, and sub-headline to include the name “CHIPPY 1337,” according to the indictment. A line in the story was also changed to say, “House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer sees ‘very good things’ in the deal cut which will see uber skid Chippy 1337 take his rightful place, as head of the Senate, reluctant House Democrats told to SUCK IT UP.”
As BuzzFeed points out, what’s interesting is that one of Anonymous’ top leaders, Sabu, seems to have outed Keys years ago. In a tweet from March 2011, Sabu wrote, “AESCracked/Matt Keys was former producer for Tribune sites. Gave full control of LATimes.com to hackers.” Sabu later worked with the FBI to go after several prominent members of the loose-knit hacking group.
Keys claims to have no idea any of this legal tidal wave was heading his way. In a tweet this afternoon, he wrote, “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.”
If found guilty, Keys faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.