Techie convicted of locking up SF city network

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A former network administrator has been convicted of hijacking San Francisco's computer network and refusing to tell his bosses the passwords.

Terry Childs, who had worked at the city's Department of Telecommunication Information Services for 10 years, had apparently become concerned about impending layoffs.

He was also a bit miffed that his bosses were reviewing his security clearance because of a previous conviction for robbery.

He effectively locked up the entire fiber WAN, the heart of the city's computing infrastructure. It handles the majority of the city's law enforcement, payroll and information on jail inmates as well as emails.

It stayed that way for 12 days: while the network continued to run, nobody had administrative control. Mayor Gavin Newsom described the city as having been 'in peril' during this time.

In the end, after he'd been locked up for a week, Childs handed over the access codes to the mayor, who must be a singularly persuasive man.

Childs had argued that he was the only person in the department competent to run the network, and that he was simply trying to protect it from his useless colleagues.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the jurors were critical of the city's actions.

"We had a lot of sympathy for him," it quotes one as saying. "Management did everything they possibly could wrong. There was ineffective management, ineffective communication. I think that if they put the city on trial, they would be guilty, too."

Childs faces a prison sentence of up to five years, but plans to appeal. He'll be sentenced in June.