On Wednesday, a California jury found a journalist guilty of having helped members of the hacking group Anonymous breach his former employer’s computer systems.
Matthew Keys, 28, was indicted back in 2013 for an incident that occurred several years prior between him and Tribune Company – a media and marketing solutions firm which owns a television station that previously employed Keys.
According to Reuters, Keys left that station following a dispute with his supervisor. Shortly thereafter, a statement issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California reveals that Keys contacted members of the hacking group Anonymous and provided them with the login credentials to Tribune Company’s server.
He specified that he wanted Los Angeles Times “demolished.”
Following their web exchange, the Anonymous hackers used the username and password provided by Keys to access Tribune Company’s server, at which point in time they altered the web version of a LA Times news feature.
Meanwhile, Keys changed the login credentials of the television station’s employees and obtained the email addresses of the some of the station’s viewers, to whom he sent negative emails about Tribune Company.
In a recorded interview with the FBI back in October 2012, Keys admitted his guilt in the incident and waived his Miranda rights. He was indicted in the hack the following year.
Two years later, Keys has been found guilty on one count of conspiracy to make changes to a corporate website, one count of transmitting malicious code, and one count of attempting to transmit malicious code.
He faces up to 25 years in prison for his actions, though the prosecutors said that they would “likely” not ask for a sentence of more than five years.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Although he did no lasting damage, Keys did interfere with the business of news organizations, and caused the Tribune Company to spend thousands of dollars protecting its servers. Those who use the Internet to carry out personal vendettas against former employers should know that there are consequences for such conduct.”
The punishment time facing Keys has garnered criticism from several notable figures on social media, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:
For defacing an @LATimes article for 40 minutes, journo @MatthewKeysLive faces 25 years. Years. #PrisonPolicy https://t.co/Ae9YszVEiH
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 7, 2015
This is in contrast to the $18,000 and 333 hours that Tribune Company reports it invested in responding to the hack.
Barring an appeal, Keys will be sentenced in a federal court in Sacramento, California on January 20, 2016.
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