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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Thompson Reuters social media editor faces hacking charges



Profile photo of Matthew Keys. Source:@TheMatthewKeys .

social media editor for Thompson Reuters was charged by a grand jury on Thursday, March 14, of conspiring with the hacker collective Anonymous to infiltrate the Tribune Company’s websites, including the Los Angeles Times, reported The Huffington Post the same day.

Matthew Keys, 26, was indicted on three counts under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that could result in up to 25 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines, according to The Huffington Post. Internet advocates criticized federal prosecutors’ use of the CFAA, calling it disproportionate to the crime.

According to the Department of Justice, Keys allegedly provided Anonymous logins and passwords to "make unauthorized changes to web sites that the Tribune Company used to communicate news features to the public; and to damage computer systems used by the Tribune Company" between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, 2010, after he was fired from his job at KTXL Fox 40, a Tribune Co.-owned station in Sacramento, Calif.

Read the indictment here, courtesy of The Huffington Post.

One hacker successfully used the information to deface a story online by the Los Angeles Times, according to The New York Times.

Keys’ employer, Thompson Reuters, reported that the web producer was suspended with pay. Reportedly, his workstation was disassembled and his security pass had been deactivated. Keys did not start working for Reuters until 2012, the wire service added.

Global Post reported that activists denounced the charges, calling them disproportionate to the crime. The news website added that Internet freedom advocates and some lawmakers were looking to curb the far-reaching CFAA, the same law used to charge freedom of information activist Aaron Swartz. Keys faces up to 25 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines if found guilty.

The indictment estimated the cost of the damages to the Tribune Co. at $5,000 during one year.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the breech was “trivial” and that the case could have been handled as a civil lawsuit. A computer security expert interviewed for the story opined that Anonymous’ involvement in the case could have piqued the interest of federal prosecutors.

Keys’ arraignment is set for April 12 in Sacramento, according to Politico.



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