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Matthew Keys Gets 2 Years In Jail For 40 Minute Web Defacement He Didn't Even Commit


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The latest in the Matthe Keys case  is that Keys has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for his involvement in a minor incomprehensible web defacement of an LA Times story that lasted for all of about 40 minutes. The prosecution was asking for 5 years, while Keys' lawyers asked for nothing more than probation. As we noted, the whole thing seems fairly crazy. It is entirely possible that Keys acted like an immature jackass regarding his former employer, but the actual case revolved around a single action:  the claimed sharing of login credentials for the content management system of the Tribune Company, which another person (who is apparently known to law enforcement, but has never been charged with anything) used to do a minor defacement of a single story to have the headline read: Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337.

This minor defacement was up for about 40 minutes before being taken down. When the government tried to add up the damages, the Tribune Company at first admitted that there were basically none.




After being pushed, they "found" more damages and somehow it turned into nearly a million dollars, by making emails that "cost" $225 and talking about something totally unrelated to this hack -- some alleged harassment Key did by emailing people in a database from his former employer. If he actually did this (he denies it), it was a really shitty thing to do, but it also was not what he was on trial for.

Either way, the government needed the number to be at least $5000 so it could use the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) against Keys. From the sound of things at the sentencing hearing (mainly via reporter Sarah Jeong's excellent tweets), the judge initially did sound fairly skeptical about the government's arguments, but eventually went with 24 months in prison. Somewhat incredibly, someone from the LA Times even presented that this minor bit of digital vandalism was "an attack" on the entire journalism field, and since there's already difficulty in figuring out what news is real, this was a true threat to credibility for journalism as a whole. Really, now?

The prosecution also apparently whined to the judge that Keys has been talking publicly about his case, which, last I checked, is protected free speech:



Prosecutor does not like that Keys has been tweeting and giving interviews as follows pic.twitter.com/jdG5eUHkC2

— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) April 13, 2016


While the judge at least indicated she didn't care about all that -- she still sentenced him to two years in prison.

And, really, that's the crux of the issue here. For everything that Matthew Keys was accused of doing -- and some of it was undoubtedly obnoxious -- the single thing he was charged with was violating the CFAA by distributing a username and password. And he's now been sentenced to two whole years in jail for that. How in the world does the punishment here fit the crime? As David Graham noted, this is basically the same sentence (actually slightly longer) that the "affluenza teen" received on the same day for killing four people while driving drunk. Or, as Adam Steinbaugh notes, Keys will end up spending about 18 days in prison for every minute that the LA Times defacement (which, again, he didn't actually do) remained online.



Matthew Keys will spend ~18 days in prison for every sixty seconds that the LA Times said Chippy 1337 might pass in the House.

— Adam Steinbaugh (@adamsteinbaugh) April 13, 2016


And while Keys still maintains his overall innocence, even if he did exactly what he's accused of doing this sentence is absolutely insane and highlights just how ridiculous the CFAA is as a law -- and why it's so beloved by prosecutors who can use it to go after lots of people for doing really small things.



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I always believed that there is some "prison-mania", condemning people who are actually not criminals to shorter or longer prison terms. So, he will spend most part of those 2 years in some prison, with some serious costs for the state which should be assigned for real delinquents. The real alternative for this kind of cases is the so called "community service", which might serve for kind of an educative purpose.

So this fellow should have been condemned, let's say, to a 6 months long Community Service in L.A.Times (or some other newspaper), woking progressively in different departments so he should understand how serious and important is the job of someone working for a newspaper and how disturbing might be for them people messing with their job.

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