Conviction of journalist for hacking Los Angeles times highlights internal threat issues in privacy protection

October 9, 2015 |

The high profile conviction of Matthew Keys for assisting hackers break into the Los Angeles Times website and deface a headline highlights the need for organisations to maintain adequate controls and processes. Insider interference with cyber security is less exciting than stories of outside hacking but are regular occurrences. The story is reported by CNN in Ex-editor Matthew Keys convicted in Los Angeles Times hack,  by the BBC in Journalist guilty of helping Anonymous deface Los Angeles Times and in the LA Times with Former Reuters social media editor convicted of aiding L.A. Times hack.

Generally insider attacks are not ideologically motivated, Edward Snowden notwithstanding.  They are often disgruntled or ex employees using their access rights to wreak havoc for personal satisfaction or financial gain.  Keys was an ex employee who was sacked by a company owned by Tribune Co, the owner of the LA Times.

Having systems in place where ex employees access rights are removed as soon as they leave is important.  Similarly alerts on unusual access within an organisation avoids or at least minimises the potential of vandalism or data theft.  It is as important to have a system in place to identify breaches as soon as possible after they occur, identify the source and mitigate the damage.

The CNN report provides:

Former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys was found guilty of helping hackers break into the Los Angeles Times website and deface one of its headlines, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Keys, 28, faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 20, 2016.

He was found criminally responsible for giving hackers with the group Anonymous log-in credentials for a computer at the Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and other media outlets.

Keys had been fired from Tribune-Co. owned KTXL FOX 40 in October 2010. Two months later, he handed over the information Anonymous needed to hack its network.

He later went to work for Reuters, which dismissed him after he was charged with the crime.

Keys, who was indicted in 2013 by a grand jury in California, was found guilty on all three hacking-related charges.

In addition to possible prison time, he could also be sentenced to nine years of supervised release and a fine of $750,000.

Court documents include the log of an alleged online chat between Keys and an Anonymous member nicknamed “Sharpie,” who detailed accessing the Tribune server to change the LA Times story. “Sharpie” turned out to be “Sabu,” a former Anonymous member who notoriously became an FBI informant after his arrest.

The conviction was noted by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employe who is living in exile after leaking a massive cache of NSA documents.

One Response to “Conviction of journalist for hacking Los Angeles times highlights internal threat issues in privacy protection”

  1. Conviction of journalist for hacking Los Angeles times highlights internal threat issues in privacy protection | Australian Law Blogs

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