back to article San Francisco's 'rogue' sysadmin faces trial

Terry Childs, the allegedly rogue sysadmin accused of locking San Francisco authorities out of their own network at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, will stand trial on four charges of tampering with a computer network. At a preliminary hearing last week, a judge ruled there was enough evidence of his probable guilt …


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  1. GF


    IMHO, it appears that what Terry Childs failed to see is that the computer-communication network is not his to lockout. It was paid-for by the San Francisco taxpayers, and they entrusted (through elections) the city officials to manage the network, no different than entrusting these same officials to manage the rest of the city's infrastructure.

    I believe if Mr. Childs truly believed that he was the only one who can manage this network and that his superiors were incompetent, he could have just been a whistleblower and filed a complaint to the state auditor's office (preferably with solid evidence of the risks to the network). He could have even gone to the news media as a last resort. However, he instead decided to behave like a criminal and perform reverse-hacking to lock everyone out. Pretty sad indeed.

  2. EvilJason

    Hmm it seams to me that....

    There could be two side to this story either this sys admin really did make the password to protect the system from been damaged from the other users and supervisors or he did it to protect himself from been fired.

    What i want to know is what the mayor said to make him give it up? did he promise anything?

    All this shows anyhow is to not give one person to much power have three people the ability to override the system the guy in charge a co person and an outside person like the mayor


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    'ang 'im

    >"He was the only person in the department capable of running that system"

    Hang him, and those who let themselves get into that position. He's giving IT professionals a bad name by withholding the password. Not allowing for "emergencies" (such as falling under a bus, going rogue, or annoying the wrong BofH) is either criminal negligence or utter incompetance, on both his part and his employers.

    No matter how bad my clients get, there's no way I'd lock them out of their own systems - I quite like having some freedom and having a professional reputation, not to mention that there's a lot more money to be made by hauling them through the courts for abusing my work than the other way round.

  4. vagabondo


    And do you have evidence (solid or otherwise) for this "interesting" belief? Or is this just a pretty sad case of empty speculation?

  5. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    Childs definitely wasn't running it right, he really was locking things down far too tight. And not documenting properly.

    BUT... from what I've read, Childs is absolutely right, they are incompetent. They spent a lot of time and money looking for a "mystery" terminal server on the network (yes, they couldn't even track their own network well enough to no *which building* it was in). They spent $200,000 up front to basically have Cisco admins clear passwords on various kit, which isn't a real sign of competence -- it's just not that hard to clear passwords on gear you have physical access to. And so on.

    I think they could have found *something* to charge Childs with, but given he was hired to admin and secure the network, having it be too secure for them to mess with is in no way tampering. Unless he has a pretty bad lawyer (or there's a lot left out of the news reports) I don't think they have a case.

  6. Anonymous Coward
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    It's mine and I'm not telling!

    I thought it up.

    I set it.

    You can't have it.

    Nerrrrrrrr nerrrrrrrrr nerrrrrrrr!

  7. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Forgive my ignorance. butt.

    If he has a secret word is he required to tell anyone what it is?

    I would have thought it wasn't mandatory in state or federal law that he does. In which case the action against him is a civil matter is it not?

    So how can he be held in gaol?

    All he has to do is prove he gave someone else another password and I can't believe he failed to do that. He wouldn't have to release that other password would he?

    So exactly what has he done or is he alledged to have done?

  8. John
    Thumb Down


    The bail thing is rediculous. Its not like he is a flight risk.

    And he never locked anybody out of the NETWORK. The city continued to function without him. He locked them out of the hardware itself. Big difference, and in the end, this is probably what will save him.

  9. Marty McFly Silver badge


    Does the trial Judge use the same network which Childs administered? Was the Judge in any way affected by this alleged problem?

    It would seem to me a competent lawyer would have no problem proving the Judge is biased and unable to remain free of prejudice. Especially if Childs loses and it goes to appeal in a higher court.

  10. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    My best guess is...

    "If he has a secret word is he required to tell anyone what it is? - So how can he be held in gaol?

    So exactly what has he done or is he alledged to have done?"

    I can't see that this is an IT issue at all. It's a contractual issue.

    I assume that he was hired to administer the system, which includes providing access for approved parties. He seems to have refused to provide access when asked by his senior managers.

    If he was the ONLY person allowed to approve parties (and none of his higher managers were) then perhaps what he did was legal. But I suspect that the higher managers WERE allowed to make the rules, and have the system ruined if they saw fit. So I can't see that he has a legal leg to stand on.

    Fun, though....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depends when they asked him for the password.

    If they asked him for it AFTER they sacked him, they don't have a leg to stand on. He's not obliged to disclose anything outside a contract of employment.

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