SAN FRANCISCO - News agency Reuters has suspended with pay a deputy social media editor after he was indicted on federal charges of hacking his former employer.
Reuters spokesman David Girardin told The Associated Press Friday that Matthew Keys was suspended on Thursday with pay. He did not elaborate.
Federal authorities allege that in December 2010, Keys provided hackers with login information to access the computer system of the Tribune Co. Tribune is the parent company of the Times and also owns Sacramento television station KTXL station, where Keys was fired from months before.
Reuters hired Keys in 2012. He didn't return a phone call or respond to email messages seeking comment.
Investigators allege that Keys gave a hacker named "Sharpie" the information in an Internet chat room frequented by hackers and urged the hacker to do some damage to the Tribune Co.
According to the indictment, Sharpie altered a Times news story posted Dec. 14 and 15, 2010, to read "Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337," a reference to another hacking group. "Chippy 1337" claimed responsibility for defacing the website of video game publisher Eidos in 2011.
Keys' Facebook page says he worked as an online news producer for the Sacramento FOX affiliate KTXL from June 2008 to April 2010.
Reuters hired Keys in 2012 as a deputy editor for social media and he was at work Thursday.
"I am fine," Keys tweeted Thursday, hours after his federal indictment was announced. "I found out the same way most of you did: From Twitter. Tonight I'm going to take a break. Tomorrow, business as usual."
The indictment alleges that a second attempt to hack the Times was unsuccessful.
Federal prosecutors allege in court papers that a legendary hacker and Anonymous leader named "Sabu" offered advice on how to infiltrate Tribune's systems. The FBI unmasked Sabu when it arrested Hector Xavier Monsegur on June 7, 2011. Monsegur secretly worked as an FBI informant until federal officials announced that he helped them arrest five other alleged hackers on March 6, 2012.
Federal officials declined to comment on whether Sabu assisted in the investigation of Keys.
The day after it was announced that Sabu was an FBI informant, Keys wrote a story for Reuters about "infiltrating" the hackers' chat room.
Keys is charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, as well as transmitting and attempting to transmit that information. If convicted, the New Jersey native faces a combined 25 years prison and a $500,000 fine if sentenced to the maximum for each count.
He is scheduled for arraignment April 12 in Sacramento.
A spokesman for the Chicago-based Tribune Co. declined to comment.
While Keys did not directly address the federal charges Thursday through his voluminous Twitter feed, commentary from his more than 23,500 followers and even a story about the news indictment were retweeted from his account.
Keys did obliquely address the issue in a status update on his Facebook page he posted late Thursday.
"I'm fine, and everything will be okay," he posted.
According to Keys' Facebook profile, he is single, lives in New York City and works at Thomson Reuters Corp.'s New York office, where "I get paid to use Twitter and Facebook at work."
London-based Reuters has been expanding its business in the United States. This year, six of the Tribune's seven newspapers dropped The Associated Press for Reuters, citing cost savings. The Los Angeles Times stayed with AP.
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AP National Writer Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz contributed to this report First Published March 15, 2013 12:45 AM