San Fran hijacker pleads not guilty to network tampering

Administrators still struggling to regain control of city's routers that carry 60 percent of government traffic.

A disgruntled network administrator pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of computer tampering for allegedly setting up an unauthorized access system and holding much of the city of San Francisco's computer network hostage

Terry Childs, 43, entered the plea before Judge Paul Alvarado in San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday morning. His next court appearance is a bail hearing set for July 23.

Administrators have been struggling for the past few weeks to regain control of the city's Fibre WAN (wide area network) after Childs allegedly reset administrative passwords to its switches and routers, and refused to hand them over. He is also alleged to have planted unauthorized devices on the city's network.

As of Thursday, the city has still not recovered administrative control of its routers, but the WAN network is still operating normally, said Ron Vinson, chief administrative officer with the city's Department of Telecommunication Information Services (DTIS). He said it was hard to predict when the problem would be fixed and that it could take days or weeks to resolve the situation. "We feel very confident that we will have full access," he said.

This network, used to connect computers between buildings throughout the city, carries about 60 percent of the network traffic of San Francisco's city government. It has continued to function normally, but without administrative access the city can no longer make important security and configuration changes to the hardware.

Childs is a network administrator with the DTIS, which runs the city's critical IT operations, including the e-mail system, Web site, 311 call center and telecommunications infrastructure.

He became erratic and then hostile with colleagues after a recent security audit uncovered his activity on the network, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Childs was somber and respectful in his brief court appearance Thursday, as he stood before the judge handcuffed from behind and clad in the orange sweatsuit worn by those housed at the San Francisco County Jail.

He had a supporter in the courtroom. Dana Hom, who until 2004 was a director at DTIS, told reporters at the courthouse that he is a "casual friend" of Childs, who, he says, should have been placed on administrative leave and investigated -- not arrested -- for the incident, which Hom blamed on "poor, poor management" within the department.

"I have seen what I thought was the worst, but this takes the cake," said Hom, who now runs a PC repair company in Windsor, California. "I'm here because I see a travesty of justice."

Hom described Childs as "very gentle" and "one of the most competent IT engineers ever."

Hom, who interviewed Childs before he was hired, said in a later telephone conversation with IDG News Service that as network administrator, Childs was entitled to have the passwords to the WAN's switches and routers. He was probably unable to notify management of any password changes because customized change-management software built to track this type of data "has been broken for years," Hom said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?