Federal authorities say a former Tribune Co. employee handed the digital keys of the Los Angeles Times over to Anonymous hackers who then changed an online feature story.
The allegation came as Matthew Keys, 26, was charged with "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," the U.S. Department of Justice announced today:
Federal prosecutors allege that Keys did the deed while employed as a web producer at KTXL FOX 40, a sister property owned by the Times' corporate parent, the Tribune Co.
Keys helped hackers access the Times' site in December, 2010, a few months after he had been fired from the Sacramento gig, feds said.
Prosecutors say Keys befriended Anonymous hackers in an online forum and encouraged them to violate the Times' site. They even claim that he helped a hacker regain access to the Times after administrators booted him. Keys, feds, say, even proclaimed, "nice," after the website was successfully hacked.
According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server.
The case was investigated by FBI agents in Sacramento and L.A. Keys is from Secaucus, N.J.
Feds say he could face "10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 for each count," according to the prosecutors' statement.
Keys' Facebook page features a quote from legendary broadcast newsman Edward R. Murrow:
To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.
[Added at 2:53 p.m.]: The indictment names the hacked story in question as one headlined this way:
"Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337."
Chippy1337, which is also a Twitter user's name, is said to be a mysto Romanian hacker who controls 700,000 servers.
The Dec. 14 or 15 story was bylined "By CHIPPYS NO1 FAN" and goes on to say:
House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer sees 'very good things' in the deal cut which will see uber skid Chippy 1337 take his rightful place, as head of Senate, reluctant House Democrats told to to SUCK IT UP.
It appeared to be a hack of this Times piece on political pressure in the House to pass a tax-cut package.
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Keys was due in court April 12.
[Added at 12:44 p.m. Friday]: Reuters, where Keys works as as deputy social media editor, says he's been suspended with pay, apparently as a result of the case.
With reporting by LA Weekly staff writer Gene Maddaus.