26-year Matthew Keys who worked as a social media editor for Thomson Reuters was recently charged with helping the hacktivist group Anonymous.  The FBI said the charges stemmed from The Los Angeles Times website being defaced. 

Mathew Keys worked briefly as a Website producer for KTXL Fox 40, which was affiliated with the Los Angeles Times due to them both being owned by the Tribune Company.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Keys, who went by the user name of “AESCracked”, was able to use his past knowledge as a Web producer for KTXL to assist the hacktivist group Anonymous in hacking the L.A. Times website.

The charges against Keys include assisting Anonymous with login and passwords into the site, encouragement of vandalism, conspiracy and the transmission of a malicious code (virus). 

Under the count II, Conspiracy, the indictment read that on December 15, 2010 “The defendant, MATTHEW KEYS, together with at least one other person, did conspire to knowingly cause the transmission of a program, information, code, and command, and, as a result of such conduct, intentionally caused damage without authorization to a protected computer…”

This indictment against Keys also includes a portion of communication Keys had in an IRC chat under his screen name, ‘AESCracked’.  In the communication, Keys conversed with an Anonymous member using the screen name “sharpie”, and gave the individual the admin access needed to get into the Los Angeles Times website. 

The indictment also mentions the defacing of the site article that occurred on or about December 11, 2010 when an Anonymous member under the user name of “Ngarcia” got into the site and altered a headline and a portion of its content.  Initially the headline read, “Pressure Builds in House to Pass Tax-Cut Package” but was altered to read “Pressure Builds in the House to Elect CHIPPY 1337”.  

While Keys was an employee of Thomson Reuters when he was arrested, he was not employed by the agency at the time of his alleged hacking of the L.A. Times website. 

According to the FBI their Sacramento and Los Angeles Field Offices investigated Keys’ case.  They also stated that the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California would be prosecuting him.

The case against Keys was filed on March 14, 2013 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California. If Keys is convicted and sentenced on all counts he could be facing as much as 10 years in prison and $750,000 (U.S.) in fines.