WASHINGTON -- Web producer Matthew Keys, 26, has been charged by the Justice Department in connection with an attack on the website of his former employer by the group Anonymous.
Keys is currently a deputy social media editor at Thomson Reuters.
The Justice Department indictment says Keys gave hackers affiliated with Anonymous usernames and passwords after he was fired from his job at Tribune Co.-owned KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, Calif. He allegedly told hackers to "go f**k some s**t up."
DOJ alleges Keys posted under the username "AESCracked" and worked with Anonymous hackers between Dec. 10 and Dec. 15, 2010. The object of the conspiracy, according to DOJ, was to "make unauthorized changes to web sites that the Tribune Company used to communicate news features to the public; and to damage computer systems used by the Tribune Company."
Other members of the conspiracy allegedly identified the Los Angeles Times as a target. One hacker successfully altered a Los Angeles Times story using the login Keys allegedly provided. According to DOJ, Keys stated he would use a Virtual Private Network to "cover [his] tracks" but discovered the company had cut off his account.
"I'm locked out for good," Keys wrote, according to the indictment. ":(."
A separate court document in the case indicated that Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker formerly known as "Sabu," appeared in the chat-room log at the core of the Keys case. The document says Monsegur "offered advice on how to conduct the network intrusion." Monsegur would later go on to become a cooperating informant on Anonymous.
Keys, a social media guru who previously used the Twitter handle @ProducerMatthew, faces up to 25 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $750,000. His arraignment is set for April 12 at 2 p.m. in Sacramento.
Reuters spokeswoman Barb Burg said the news service was reviewing the matter, but noted, "The indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010, which is more than one year before Mr. Keys joined Reuters."
Read the full indictment here.
Gerry Smith contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of years in prison Keys faces if convicted. He could be sentenced to up to 25 years, not 30.