Ex-Fox 40 web producer accused of conspiring to hack Internet news site

Published: Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 11:25 am

A former Web producer for KTXL Fox 40, a Tribune Co.-owned television station in Sacramento, was indicted Thursday 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 Justice news release.

Keys did not respond to phone and email requests for comment. On Twitter, he told followers Thursday afternoon, "I'm fine. I found out the way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I'm going to take a break. Tomorrow, business as usual."

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 Tribune Co.'s server.

After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. At least one of the hackers used the credentials Keys provided to log in to 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.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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