Ex-IT Admin Found Guilty in San Francisco

Jim Kirby, director of engineering at Dataware Services, an IT services firm in Sioux Falls, S.D., called the verdict "lame" and expressed hope that it would be thrown out by the judge. Kirby said that based on his understanding of the case, Childs' refusal to hand over the passwords was understandable. "If what I've read is correct, and he simply refused to give out the password over a conference bridge with unauthorized people listening in, then this entire case is a real shame," he said.

Others, including numerous posters on Slashdot however, had less sympathy for Childs. "There's no question that what he did was malicious and even criminal," said Richard Gorman, CEO of Vormetric, a vendor of data security products. Childs' refusal to hand over the passwords needlessly caused San Francisco a "tremendous amount" of disruption and cost, Gorman said.

"If your boss demands the password, give it to them," said a commenter named nomadic on Slashdot . "Send them a letter along with the passwords saying that you are doing it under protest if you want, warn them of the dangers, whatever, but don't be idiotic," nomadic wrote.

The episode highlights the dangers companies can face when they hand over the "keys to the kingdom" to a single individual as the city of San Francisco appears to have done, Gorman said. It is a situation that is common across the private and public sector , though not all instances of such insider abuse receive as much publicity.

Dealing with the issue requires companies to ensure that there is a clear separation of duties when it comes to the role of network and systems administrators, he said. Care should always be taken to ensure that one person does not have full access to all network components or have the ability to override all other administrators on a system, Gorman said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld . Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com .

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Knowledge Center.

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