RealTime IT News

Rogue SF Sysadmin Contests Charges

The arraignment of Terry Childs, the rogue system administrator for San Francisco who gained notoriety after locking officials out of the city's fiber-optic wide area network (WAN) last year, has been postponed while lawyers work out what he's actually charged with.

Judge Charles Haines granted a request from Childs' lawyer, Richard Shikman, to delay entering a plea and setting a trial date during a hearing in San Francisco Superior Court yesterday.

Shikman plans to file a legal challenge to some of the language used in the charges brought against his client because the wording is too vague.

His next hearing will be February 11, Erica Terry Derryck, deputy communications director of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris's office, told Internetnews.com.

"He'll be back in court then for pretrial motions, and then a trial date might potentially be set," she added.

Childs' lawyer, Shikman, had not responded to calls by press time.

Childs, who remains in county jail on $5 million dollars' bail, is facing four felony charges.

They include tampering with the City and County of San Francisco's FiberWAN network system in such a way as to deny other authorized administrators access to the network and to set up devices to gain unauthorized access to the system; and causing losses in excess of $200,000 as a result of the alleged computer network tampering, according to a press release from the San Francisco District Attorney's office.

Childs had taken over the fiber optic network and refused to provide access passwords to his supervisors when asked to do so following a security audit and an investigation.

He only handed over the passwords when the city's mayor, Gavin Newsom, visited him in jail a week after his arrest in July. Security experts said the lack of oversight that enabled Childs' exploits would have earned San Francisco a federal investigation if it had been a public corporation.

Since Childs' arrest, San Francisco has spent more than $1 million on revamping its network and beefing up security, and has made changes in its IT department. "We've realigned our staff as to who has access to the network, and we've got the LAN (local area network) and WAN people working together," Ron Vinson, the deputy director and director of media at the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS), where Childs had worked, told InternetNews.com.

However, Vinson denied reports that there have been departmental firings in the wake of the Childs incident. "There are no issues from the HR (human resources) perspective as relating to Mr. Childs," he said.

The post of Chief Administrative Officer, which Vinson held in addition to his job as deputy director, has also been scrapped and the administrative duties, covering human resources, finance and budgets, have been handed off.

San Francisco's DTIS now has processes in place to ensure that no one person can have all the passwords to any system or network. It was the lack of these processes that let Childs take over the WAN.