Is Matthew Keys the next Aaron Swartz?
The federal authorities have found a new target in Reuters employee Matthew Keys.
“According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server,” the DoJ press release reads. “After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. According to the indictment, at least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and ultimately that hacker made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.”
While this appears to be a bit more serious than breaking into a university and downloading some JSTOR files as was the case with Aaron Swartz; we are starting to see a much more aggressive tone being taken by law enforcement in regards to information and intellectual property.
While both Aaron Swartz and Matthew Keys did things that were unlawful, these could be considered a form of protest nonetheless. With Swartz it was all about the open access to information that was continually being put behind closed doors by private corporations. With Keys I’m not sure exactly what his motive was, but considering Anonymous was involved I would assume it to be political.
Update – 3/17/12 - I was reading some of the comments on Reddit about this post and thought I would elaborate a bit.
There were a few comments chiding me for comparing Aaron Swartz and Matthew Keys. I suppose that is warranted. However, I only make the comparison loosely. What I am comparing is how both were aggressively pursued by the federal government for being involved with the theft of digital information and breaking into information systems. Of course we’ve had prosecutions of hackers and such in the past going back decades, but to me there just seems to be a renewed vigor by the DOJ in pursing these types of crimes.
Someone commented that unlike Swartz, what Keys did wasn’t for the greater good. They felt that it looked like Keys was going after his former employer and using Anonymous to achieve that. I’m not sure if that is indeed actually the case. We don’t know what Keys’ motive was, but looking at the type of person he is I still believe that this was to make a political statement of some kind, rather than a personal vendetta. Matthew Keys could have given the information to a number of hackers but he chose Anonymous who are issue driven when it comes to their targets.
In the end I could be entirely wrong about Mr. Keys. He could for all intense and purposes be what people on the Reddit thread think he is; that being an opportunist. Some of this could be cleared up if someone in the press were to interview him.
Update – 4/22/13 – It looks like Reuters has gone ahead and terminated its relationship with Matthew Keys effective today. Although Mr. Keys is stating that this has nothing to do with the Anonymous incident.