Jailed SF Network Admin Terry Childs Speaks Out

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In Thursday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches former San Francisco network administrator Terry Childs speak out from his jail cell. Not to mention the end of U.S. analog TV...

Robert McMillan reports:

He's been in jail for seven months now, but ... Terry Childs said he's going to keep fighting to prove he's innocent of computer crime charges. Childs was arrested on July 12, charged with disrupting San Francisco's wide-area network during a tense standoff with management.


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 standoff with police and city officials ... 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. [MORE]

Paul Venezia adds:

I read the latest defense filing in the Terry Childs case over the weekend, and was struck by some new information presented there, specifically related to the circumstances under which Childs was asked for the FiberWAN passwords. It sheds light on why Childs may have withheld the password to the city's WAN.


The defense asserts that those present ... were simply not qualified to hear the passwords ... If this is true, then his refusal to divulge the passwords becomes a lot less problematic from an ethics and security standpoint. You don't give up the master keys to a seemingly random group of people, including those that don't work in the department and some unknown others on the phone ... An apt analogy for this situation might be nautical in nature. While a ship is at sea, the ship's captain is the boss -- no matter that he may be outranked by others on board, he alone controls the ship. [MORE]

Pete Trbovich is easy for you to say:

I'm glad to see some follow-up to this story ... And after reading the new information, I still see no reason to change my opinion from seven months ago. In fact, I'm now more convinced than ever that Childs found himself on the dirty end of some office politics, with somebody who had a personal beef against him.

Still no concrete charges to bring against him. Nothing but "what if?" and "maybe?" [MORE]

Matthew Lewis Carroll Smith sees how far the rabbit hole goes:

Apparently the city of SF is having a wee bit of a problem understanding exactly what a network admin does ... the guy sounds sane. [MORE]

M itch Trachtenberg goes one further:

Not only does the guy sound sane, it sounds as though he's got grounds to sue the folks who are trying to prosecute him. [The story] suggests these incompetents were upset to find (1) a modem that had been in the admin's office since before he started working there, and (2) a modem set up to page him on any problems, and (3) a modem set up to handle emergencies.

Obviously, this was not handled well by either side, but I'm inclined to believe the guy in jail over the clearly incompetent managers. [MORE]

internerdj is stunned :

Seriously, wow.


What is an IT person supposed to do? They hire him to be in charge of the network and then ask him to hand out root passwords to anyone important in the city government. At my job they make us swear on everything holy to not give our passwords or pins to ANYONE and probably would have us shot as a penalty if they could get away with it, but even without those restrictions I'm not going to hand out my password to my boss, my boss's boss, or even the CEO of the company. [MORE]

But madcow_bg isn't quite so monochrome:

However, if my boss or my boss' boss or the CEO asks to have them and most importantly signs a paper that request them, by god, just give it to the man. By having the command in writing you are covered in case something wrong happens with those keys.

If no written order comes, how are they supposed to prove you denied them the request? [MORE]

And Martin Espinoza maintains that Childs was stupid:

If people above you in the chain of command want to break the network and destroy your security, you have to let them ... your job is to do as you are told, and if they tell you to **** it all up, then you can either quit or capitulate.

It seems to me like Childs was trying to obey the letter of his job description, without fully considering the ramifications. Certainly he wasn't trying to take over the network - however dumb he might be, I certainly don't believe he's crazy enough ... Now the city is trying to do everything they can to justify their actions, so they're trotting out bull**** arguments against him. [MORE]

This story, "Jailed SF Network Admin Terry Childs Speaks Out" was originally published by Computerworld.

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