On Wednesday, a federal jury in Sacramento, California, convicted former Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys of conspiring with the hacktivist collective Anonymous to break into the Tribune Co.'s computer system and deface a story on the Los Angeles Times website.
Keys, 28, told the FBI that he had provided Anonymous with his Tribune Co. login information, obtained during his former job at TV station FOX 40, and told the hackers to mess stuff up, especially at the LA Times (Keys later argued his confession was invalid because he was on heavy anti-anxiety medication). In December 2010, hackers used that information to change the headline and other copy on an LA Times article, and the Times wasn't able to change it back for 40 minutes. Keys also changed the login credentials for FOX 40 employees and sent "disparaging emails" to viewers of the station, the Justice Department says.
"Although this case has drawn attention because of Matthew Keys' employment in the news media, this was simply a case about a disgruntled employee who used his technical skills to taunt and torment his former employer," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a statement. "Those who use the internet to carry out personal vendettas against former employers should know that there are consequences for such conduct."
Keys faces up to 25 years in prison, but federal prosecutors say they won't seek to put him behind bars for more than five years. He could also get probation. He will be sentenced in January. Reacting to the verdict, Matthew Keys took to Twitter:
Reuters fired Keys after he was indicted, but he was hired earlier this year by Grasswire, which said it will keep him on despite his conviction.