A former web producer for KTXL Fox 40, a Tribune Co.-owned television station in Sacramento, was indicted today in Sacramento for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacker group "Anonymous" to hack into and alter a Tribune Co. website.
Matthew Keys, 26, of Secaucus, N.J., was charged in the Eastern District of California with one count each of 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. He was employed by Fox 40 as its web producer but was terminated in October 2010, according to a federal Department of Justices news release.
Keys did not respond to phone and email requests for comment. On Twitter he told followers this afternoon: "Im fine. I found out the way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I'm goiing to take a break. Tomorrow, business as ususal."
The three-count indictment alleges that, in December 2010, Keys provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to Fox40's corporate parents, The Tribune Co. According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Co. employee and provided members of Anonymous with a log-in password to the Tribune Co. server.
After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. At least one of the computer hackers used the credentials Keys provided to log into the Tribune Co. server and make changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature, according to the indictment.
The indictment further alleges that Keys had a conversation with the hacker who claimed credit for defacing the Los Angeles times website. The hacker allegedly told Keys that Tribune Co. system administrators had thwarted his efforts and locked him out.
Keys allegedly attempted to regain access for that hacker, and upon learning that the hacker had made changes to a Los Angeles Times page, Keys responded, "Nice."
If convicted, Keys could face up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for each of the two substantive counts, according to federal authorities. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Sacramento and Los Angeles field offices of the FBI. It is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California.
PHOTO: Matthew Keys' Twitter profile photo from his public account.