Accused rogue admin Terry Childs makes his case

Charged network administrator Terry Childs says he would act differently if given a chance to relive his dispute with the City of San Francisco.

He's been in jail for seven months now, but former San Francisco network administrator Terry Childs [cq] says he's going to keep fighting to prove he's innocent of computer crime charges.

Childs was arrested on July 12, charged with disrupting the City of San Francisco's Wide Area Network during a tense standoff with management.

In his first interview since the arrest, given a week ago, Childs contended that he did nothing illegal while working for the city and argued that his actions, depicted as criminal by prosecutors, were in line with standard network security practices. The criminal court case before him prevented him from commenting in much detail on the case, but he outlined his defense in recently filed court documents, describing a tense July 9 stand-off with police and city officials.

That afternoon Childs "unwittingly" found himself in a surprise meeting in the city's Hall of Justice, where Childs maintained network facilities. At the meeting were his boss, DTIC Chief Operations Officer Richard Robinson, San Francisco Police Department Chief Information Officer Greg Yee and human resources representative Vitus Leung. On the phone were engineers, listening in to confirm whether the passwords he gave were correct.

They were not, and within days Childs was charged with disrupting computer services and faced further counts of unauthorized network access. He faces seven years in prison if convicted.

The July 9 meeting was the culmination of a long-simmering dispute between Childs and his managers, who had been seeking administrative passwords to the network since at least February. Childs had refused to provide the passwords, apparently because he feared that they would be shared with management or outside contractors, according to court filings.

Even though it went against the orders of his supervisors, Childs was doing his job by refusing to hand over the passwords to a roomful of people, his attorney Richard Shikman argues in the filings. "The response to suspend him was arguably legal. The response to prosecute him is not," he wrote.

The Terry Childs case can seem like a cautionary tale of the power wielded by the people in charge of computer systems. Or it can seem like a poignant reminder of how dedicated employees can be thwarted at the whim of management.

Childs is no angel. He has already served four years in Kansas prison on aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary charges, stemming from an incident that occurred when he was a teenager.

Three of the charges against Childs in the San Francisco case stem from modems that were found in his office.

Prosecutors said these modems provided illegal access to the city's network, but in court filings, Childs's lawyer says they were used for work. One was set up to dial out to Childs's pager any time a problem popped up on the city's network. The second was a DSL modem that had been set up even before Childs was hired at DTIS, used to connect to the Internet and test access to the city's network. The third was for emergency use only, designed to connect city computers to a disaster recovery site so that the city's network could be up and running in the event of an emergency.

"The existence, use and nature of modems are within the scope of the employment of a network engineer," his attorney argues in court filings.

Childs may have felt justified in refusing to hand over the passwords to strangers, but obviously something happened to lead up to the tense July 9 showdown, said Bruce Schneier, a noted computer security expert and Chief Security Technology Officer with BT. "That's not a normal day at the office," he said. "It does seem strange. It feels like there is more to the story than we know."

"The passwords are owned by the city, so as an employee he's obligated to give them up to his boss," Schneier added.

If he had to do it all over again, that's exactly what Terry Childs would do. "I'd have gotten out before it came to this," he said last week. "I have a great house ... and I'm on the verge of losing it since I'm in here. I'm out of a job, and don't know what'll happen with all this."

Childs's lawyer has moved that the charges against him be dropped. A hearing on that motion is set for Feb. 27.

Infoworld's Paul Venezia contributed to this story.

Tags terry childs

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service




Article is un-readable - formatting bug

Hey, the first 3 to 5 characters of every line of this story are cut off by the HTML formatting, rendering it unreadable. Using MSIE 6.0.2900 on XP SP2. Useless.



Try using firefox.




Looks ok on Firefox 3.0.6, IE 7, Safari 9.6 and Opera 3.2. Did you change your display font size?

As for Terry, IMHO he should have given the password to just his supervisor, then its not his problem but he should look for another job given the tension. On the other hand, why should he leave a good government job? Also, once he gives the password, who's to say someone else would not mess something up and he'd get blamed? Did they fire him first, then ask for the passwords?



Re: Article is un-readable - formatting bug

<strong>Anonymous:</strong> <em>Hey, the first 3 to 5 characters of every line of this story are cut off by the HTML formatting, rendering it unreadable. Using MSIE 6.0.2900 on XP SP2. Useless.</em>

Agreed - why is it so dadgum difficult to get something so trivial as ASCII text displayed to a webpage - isn't that like HTML version from circa 1990 at CERN?!?

Honestly: Sometimes I think that "web design" [really "web ANTI-design" or "web INTENTIONAL MIS-design"] is performed by retarded baboons typing randomly at keyboards in hopes of receiving bonus bananas from the grad students who are monitoring their behavior from behind one-way glass observation windows.

[Other FUBARs just in trying to post this reply: I can't use the "i" tag for italics; I can't use the "b" tag for bold; I can't highlight (and then copy) the actual text, so I have to "View Source" to copy what I need, etc etc etc].

Man, you know that a website is teh sux0r if you spend your entire time fighting the stupidity of the morons who [anti-] designed it, rather than actually reading the article you came to read [and you can forget about glancing at the ads of any of the idiot companies which were stupid enough to subsidize this B.S.].



looks fine to me

Safari on 10.5.6.



Article is un-readable - formatting bug

The problem is probably IE 6 not the webpage. The upgrade to IE 7, Chrome, Firefox, or Opera is free. They support the new web standards better and are much more secure.



Re: Article is un-readable - formatting bug

You did an awful lot of wordy typing to basically tell the world you're angry that your outdated non-compliant browser is outdated and non-compliant--none of which really matters to anyone but you-know-who.



To the whining a$$hat complaining about the article layout on IE

Learn to use a real browser. Why you feel the need to whine about your broken browser not displaying an article that is marked up just fine is beyond comprehension.

As if the author of the article, or the author of the content management system used is responsible for you using a browser that's a full version old and known to be crap.

Catch up with 2 years ago and upgrade your IE6 to IE7 or better yet, use an alternative browser that actually does things as it should.



Continued from above

[Other FUBARs just in trying to post this reply: I can't use the "i" tag for italics; I can't use the "b" tag for bold; I can't highlight (and then copy) the actual text, so I have to "View Source" to copy what I need, etc etc etc].


That is because the b tag, and i tag are *DEPRECATED* meaning that only someone who has no clue what they are talking about would whine publicly about not being able to use them.



Maybe it's the ...

... 2 empty divs at the beginning of the story, after by line. Extraneous html tags are never a good thing and bloat page size. While the html is technically correct, just because it's legal, doesn't make it right. Extra crap in your pages can lead to unexpected results.



You people are insane,

Rob Bos


password sharing

A possible method that might have worked, is escrow. Stick the passwords in a safe digital files, that is then stored in a safe with a mutually trusted authority.



Bold and italic tags NOT deprecated

Bold and italic tags are NOT deprecated.

Don't believe me? See here:



this should easily result in acquittal.

as for the IE6 BS, try a browser made this century, you cretins.



as for the IE6 BS, try a

<em>as for the IE6 BS, try a browser made this century, you cretins</em>

Why don't you & your limp-wristed panty-waist FOSS friends design a browser interface which doesn't look like dog vomit when you actually have to use it?



Password proceedure

What was missing in this network configuration was a process to which passwords were dealt with.

Giving everyone enable-priv access to Cisco gear is fraught with danger - you go from a stable, reliable network, to a bucket of mushed peas in the time it takes one IT dickhead to enable features, change configs or reboot gear. I've seen it time and time again.

I take the view that Password control and such is just as important as the routing/switching and security policies introduced to make the network function correctly.

For example - why was this network NOT running CiscoSecure ACS? Where are the audit logs from TACACS+ (T+)? If you want to stop people playing, just like I do on the networks I maintain, installing T+ and auditing peoples access to the equipment and commands they type works wonders with honesty.

The T+ accounts can be controlled and the backup passwords (when T+ is down or the device can't see a network) can be locked up and used. The backup passwords can't be used normally as T+ overrides them.

There's blame on both sides - But it's not a legal issue that a man should loose his livelihood over.

If anything, if I was hiring - I'd hire THIS man to assist with network operations - he's dilligent to a fault!



CSS Fail

The entire point of CSS is to separate the formatting from the content. This allows for easier search engine indexing, and cleaner code all around. You're the ignorant one who is stuck in the dark ages of the internet. Yes <i> and <b> work fine - but they fill your content with formatting that can be easier applied through a stylesheet that controls the layout for your entire site. It makes for smaller pages and generally a faster experience all around.

Get a clue, jackass.




You're either bone ignorant or a blatant troll. Please refrain from commenting while grown-ups are trying to have a meaningful conversation.



Guess what Terry Childs

It's what we knew all along:




You know you need to get away from your pc...

when you read an article about a guy put in jail for SEVEN month for doing he damn job in keeping the bloody network secure and not giving into the retardation that runs deep in the average CEO and management, and the first thing that comes to mind is to BITCH about html and css syntax.

Seriously? I think you guys are captured in some basement but never find out because you never try to leave. Doing IT work for some huge organisation you don't even know the name of.

Oh noos! teh style is teh inline. Empty div does not want!

The problem Terry Childs (remember him?) has, is he has to learn when to let the customer.employer go and jump of his own bridge.
Nothing is as educational as telling your employer that: "Yes, I will do that for you, but know that withing the next couple of month, you will end up with corrupt data and you will ask me to do the impossible. I will tell you I cannot fix it and we will have to restore month old data". And then they STILL do it and they actually say the EXACT SAME THING YOU PREDICTED THEY WOULD SAY!

And since you put the warning in writing, you can let them rant and steam and cry all they want. Theyw ill lose money, maybe even lose their job. And you have your verified warning.

THAT is what Childs should have done.



Free Terry Childs

I disagree that the password belongs to the City.

The password is a personal item, and one that Childs could easily have also been using for on line banking or other services that he did not want anyone else to access. Any time a system requests a password, it is requested and treated as a personal item. There is never any implicit expectation or rule that it will be revealed to others for any reason. What has happened here is that his employers became paranoid of the power they bestowed on him and decided to burn him. None of the other paranoia driven charges against him held water or came true. He was simply doing his job and the management did not like him, probably simply over a personality clash.

He will win out in the end and will have a big payday. It will be like "Office Space"!

Hang in there Terry and you will be enjoying a Margarita on the beach!

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