Former Tribune staffer denies giving hackers log-in credentials

Matthew Keys took to Facebook to deny charges against him

Former Tribune Company employee Matthew Keys has denied giving a username and password to anyone, or conspiring to cause damage to a protected computer.

Keys was charged with one count each of conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer, transmission of malicious code and attempting to transmit malicious code, according to a federal indictment filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

He was previously employed as a Web producer for television station KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, which is owned by Tribune, but was terminated in October 2010.

In December that year, Keys is alleged to have given log-in credentials to the content management system (CMS) of the Tribune Group to members of hacker group Anonymous, and encouraged them to disrupt the website, the Department of Justice said. He is alleged to have used the nickname "AESCracked" for his IRC (Internet Relay Chat) communications with members of Anonymous.

At least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and made changes to the Web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature, according to DOJ.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Keys denies the charges.

He wrote: I did not give a username and a password to anyone. I did not "conspire" to "cause damage to a protected computer." I did not cause "transmission of malicious code," and I did not "attempt" to cause "transmission of malicious code."

Keys, who faces up to 25 years in jail, said his attorneys have said much the same in the past few days, but he felt it might mean more if it came from him directly.

The indictment against Keys has been criticized by online rights groups. It comes after the suicide in January of Internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz, who faced charges before his death for allegedly accessing and downloading over 4 million articles from the JSTOR online database through the network of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If convicted, Swartz could have faced up to 35 years in prison and a fine of US$1 million, which was seen as too disproportionate a sentence.

The case "underscores how computer crimes are prosecuted much more harshly than analogous crimes in the physical world," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation about Keys' indictment.

The EFF said physical vandalism like spray painting graffiti on a freeway sign can be punished under California state law either as a misdemeanor--which comes with a maximum of a one year sentence--or a felony which carries a sentence of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years. However, one of the counts on which Keys has been charged, which related to altering content of a news article, is a felony with a maximum punishment of five years in prison under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, EFF said last week.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Tribune Companysecuritylegalinternet

More about CMSDepartment of JusticeDOJEFFElectronic Frontier FoundationFacebookIDGMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyTechnology

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John Ribeiro

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place