A former Reuters employee has been convicted of conspiring with members of the internet group Anonymous in a cyber attack against Tribune Media, his former employer. As social media editor at the Tribune, Matthew Keys provided Anonymous with username and password information so that the group could “go fuck some shit up.”
Convicted of conspiracy to damage a protected computer, transmission of malicious code, and attempted transmission of malicious code, Keys claimed in his defense that he was all along planning to expose the group.
Anonymous is composed of an international group of internet activists who have conducted attacks on targets such as the Church of Scientology, U.S. government agencies and military contractors. Critics of the group describe it as engaging in cyber-terrorism, and also point out that their shutting down of the websites of terror groups and child pornographers can actually hinder efforts to combat them.
After Keys provided Anonymous with the login information, a headline was changed at the Los Angeles Times newspaper, which is owned by Tribune. Anonymous hackers could have used that same login to target websites of FOX television affiliates or other media properties of Tribune.
Keys had a history of unusual behavior leading up to the crime, including online stalking and harassment of love interests who had rejected him, posting fake suicide notes and other attention-seeking behaviors. Keys sought out Anonymous in late 2010, when he offered the group his services as a press liaison.
According to prosecutor Benjamin Wagner, “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.”
The U.S. government has been dealing with the fallout from many recent attacks at the hands of foreign actors in Russia and China. To discourage such behavior from within its borders, the U.S. justice system is attempting to make an example out of people like Keys, who potentially faces 25 years in prison.