Summary:

The Justice Department has unsealed a stunning indictment that accuses an editor at international newswire service Reuters of collaborating with the hackers’ collective Anonymous.

Matthew Keys
photo: Reuters

This story was updated at 11:45am on Friday with additional details, includingReuters’ response.

A grand jury has charged Matthew Keys, social media editor at international news service Reuters, with helping the hackers’ group Anonymous to break into the computer system of the publisher of the Los Angeles Times in order to alter its website.

The allegations are set out in a stunning indictment revealed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday. Keys faces three federal charges: one for conspiracy and two related to sharing malicious code. The indictment (via Politico) also shows an instant messaging session in which Keys and a hacker named “sharpie” gloat over hacking the Times and commiserate that the publisher has locked Keys out of the system.

Key’s biography page at Reuters is still up for now and says he was hired in 2012 and is currently Deputy Social Media Editor, a relatively senior position that involves sharing newswire stories over platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Here’s a screenshot:

Matthew Keys screenshot

The indictment also states that Keys’ decision to supply passwords from the Tribune Company, his former employer, allowed Anonymous to alter a political story in the LA Times to say that “uber skid Chippy” take his place as head of the Senate and that Democrats should “suck it up.” The hacked version of the story stayed up for 30 minutes.

Update: Reuters has since suspended Keys with pay, according to the Huffington Post. The company also told a Reuters reporter that it had knowledge of the indictment and added, “Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012.”

Keys himself tweeted yesterday: “I found out the same way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I’m going to take a break. Tomorrow,business as usual.”

Other reports say Keys was disciplined by Re

The indictment says the Anonymous communications took place in December of 2010 and describe Keys at that time as a “recently terminated employee” of radio station Fox 40.

If convicted of all the charges, Keys faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. In the event of a guilty plea, he could offer information in return about his co-conspirators in return for a shorter sentence. The indictment also states the federal government wants him to forfeit a MacBook Pro, a Toshiba hard drive and personal property.

Reuters’ Twitter account, which Keys presumably had a role in overseeing, continued to tweet regular business news on Wednesday. The Reuters Legal account has likewise so far made no mention of the hacking.

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