SysAdmin Who Locked San Francisco Network Gives Key to Mayor Gavin Newsom

By July 25, 2008

Terry Childs, the 43-ear-old disgruntled San Francisco network administrator who hijacked the city’s network by withholding the its pass codes, has given them to San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, after having refused to reveal them for more than a week. Without the codes, city administrators would have had to reconfigure the network, a time-consuming and costly process. The codes gave Childs exclusive access to the City’s FiberWAN network, which carries around 60 percent of the government’s network, including the law enforcement, payroll, officials’ e-mails, and jail-booking records; the network could still run, but only Childs could configure it. He also apparently “booby trapped” the system, so that key files would have been destroyed had the system been shut down or lost power. A system shutdown had been scheduled for Saturday, July 19, for routine


Childs’ lawyer claims that he was protecting the system.

“Mr. Childs had good reason to be protective of the password," Crane said. "His co-workers and supervisors had in the past maliciously damaged the system themselves, hindered his ability to maintain it ... and shown complete indifference to maintaining it themselves,” said his lawyer, Erin Crane.

There is a Tale of Two Media beginning to develop. While the mainstream press is painting Childs as paranoid and manic, someone who was losing control of his work and maybe life, some in the IT community see him as a hero wrongly incarcerated, a good network administrator – albeit lacking one in social skills – who was put into a no-win situation by working for an incompetent company.

“[T]his may be a case of an overprotective admin who believed he was protecting the network – and by extension, the city – from other administrators whom he considered inferior, and perhaps even dangerous,” wrote Paul Venezia for Infoworld.

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