Former Tribune Company web producer and current Reuters deputy editor of Social Media, Matthew Keys has been indicted for allegedly conspiring with members of Anonymous to hack his former employer's web properties.
According to the indictment papers, the 26 year old allegedly met with members of Anonymous on an IRC channel #internetfeds under the handle of AESCracked in December 2010. The papers state that Anonymous members were seeking to break into Fox, and after identifying himself as a former Tribune employee, handed over site credentials and encouraged them to "go f*** some s*** up".
An article in the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune web property, was shortly after altered from its original content about passing a tax-cut package to electing "CHIPPY 1337" as head of the Senate.
Reddit user h_lehmann picked up on the defacement, capturing a screenshot at the time, but it ultimately went unnoticed as, according to chat transcripts, it was only live for 30 minutes.
After the account used to modify the article was suspended, Keys allegedly offered to help the responsible hacker do it again, stating "I can grant you access again".
There are three charges claimed against Key: conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer, transmission of malicious code, and attempted transmission of malicious code. The first count carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, or a US$250,000 fine and/or 3 years of supervised release. The latter two counts carry the same fine and supervised release periods, but a maximum of 10 years imprisonment each.
If convicted on any of the claimed charges, Keys will be required to hand over his MacBook Pro and a Toshiba hard drive.
The US Department of Justice highlighted that the charges at this point are "merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty".
Since the indictment, Reuters has released a statement acknowledging the charges, stating that while employees' legal violations or failures to comply with its principles and standards can result in disciplinary action, the charges relate to activity prior to Keys' employment with Reuters.
Keys himself appears to have not been formally notified by the Department of Justice. He tweeting to followers: "I am fine. I found out the same way most of you did: from Twitter."
Keys' summons is currently a sealed court document, however, his arraignment has been set for April 12 and will focus on the first charge against him; conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer.
In March 2011, Lulzsec-leader-turned-FBI-informant Hector Monsegur, aka Sabu, publicly outed Matthew Keys on Twitter, linking Keys with the AESCracked handle and accusing him of giving full control of the Los Angeles Times' systems to hackers. At the time, Monsegur had not been arrested by the FBI.
Keys is familiar with Monsegur, having used his time on #internetfeds to write a Reuters article on the insights of the "secret" IRC channel. The article itself references the Los Angeles Times hack and his chats with Monsegur, with Keys writing that he believed Monsegur may have trusted him.
Keys wrote that Monsegur would "destroy the reputation of anyone who might expose him or ruin his reputation, or that of Anonymous" and "release personal information about any individual whom he considered his enemy or Anonymous' enemy".
Monsegur has not been linked directly to Keys' indictment, but according to Australian Associated Press, court papers show that he "offered advice on how to conduct the network intrusion".