Terry Childs found GUILTY of San Francisco FiberWAN lockout

The City of San Francisco prevailed yesterday, in the criminal case against its disgraced network administrator, Terry Childs. He's looking at up to five years in jail for "denial of service". Read today's IT Blogwatch, for blogger commentary, including fascinating insights into the jury deliberations.

By Richi Jennings. April 28, 2010.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Chatroulette speed painting...     Jaxon van Derbeken brings the news:

Terry Childs, 45, of Pittsburg ... a former San Francisco network engineer ... was found guilty of a felony charge of denying computer access ... Tuesday ... making him eligible for a maximum state prison sentence of five years. ... Prosecutors argued that Childs had decided to wall off his supervisors from the city network. ... Mayor Gavin Newsom ... testified that the city had been "in peril" because officials were blocked from access to police records, payroll data and other information.


Childs' attorney, Richard Shikman ... acknowledged that Childs may have been "paranoid" about protecting the system and undiplomatic with his bosses, but nothing worse. ... [He] said the city computer network had never been at risk. ... "I'm disappointed at the verdict - he's very decent man."

David Kravets adds:

Childs was arrested in July 2008 after refusing to hand over passwords to the ... FiberWAN network. ... A San Francisco jury deliberated a week before reaching a verdict. ... The FiberWAN network system ... connects hundreds of different ... city-and-county government ... departments and buildings to a central data center, and to each other.


Childs’ $5 million bail was set five times higher than most murder defendants’ because the authorities feared that, if released, he might permanently lock the system and erase records.

Jason Chilton was a juror on the case. In a fascinating series of comments, he explains what went on:

Management in the city's IT organization ... did everything wrong that they possibly could have to create this situation. ... One different decision by [Childs], or more effective management by the city could have completely avoided this.


This jury was not made up of incompetent people. ... I myself am a network engineer with a CCIE and thirteen years experience. ... No matter what you think ... you do not have ... even 10% of ... the full story. I am confident that we reached the correct verdict.


One of the most difficult questions for us to answer ... [was] who is an "authorized user"? ... We did ultimately determine ... beyond any reasonable doubt ... his boss' boss was an authorized user.

Eric Knorr makes soup, not war:

At first, the case was a swirl of accusations and innuendo, but a revealing piece of evidence emerged ... Childs had been asked for the network passwords in front of an open conference line and refused to give them. ... That was almost two years ago. Since then three of the four charges aganst Childs have been dropped.


Childs is not a hero ... but for better or worse, he has become a symbol of the misunderstood IT person. ... Mistakes were made by the city ... the overreaction had to be justified by ... the serious charge of denial of service, when in fact the network never went down. ... [This] case does highlight the extreme isolation experienced by some IT people ... catastrophic miscommunication with laypeople is a disaster waiting to happen.

This Anonymous Coward reads between the lines:

Terry Child built this network. It was his baby and he owned it. ... He loved it so much that he applied and was granted a copyright ... as technical artistry. His department was going through a series of downsizes and his supervisor began to audit his work. ... He got spooked and started snooping on his bosses, which spooked his bosses and it all led to a stand off.

But, noting an ironic twist, unity100 calls the City's actions "insanely stupid":

[San Francisco] had the prudence to disclose ALL of those LIVE passwords and usernames as evidence in a public court ... exposing personal information of millions of citizens in public databases.

And Finally...

Paz Bernstein's amazing Chatroulette speed painting [hat tip: Queen Pickle]

Read more about Terry Childs.

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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