SF's silent sysadmin pleads not guilty

The password? Can't say? Won't say?


The sysadmin accused of locking the San Francisco city council out of its computer network was back in jail yesterday after pleading not guilty to four counts of computer tampering.

Terry Childs was locked up in lieu of $5m bail last weekend, after the city accused him of creating a super password for its new FiberWan network, and locking out other users. Childs had been suspended after a run-in with one of his superiors.

Childs, a 42-year-old from Pittsburg, California, initially coughed up a password to investigators but this proved to be bogus. He has since refused to give up the real password, according to reports.

The silent sysadmin’s lawyer, speaking after his arraignment, insisted Childs was willing to help the city get back into the network, and had been willing to handover the password since Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

She said he was “willing to cooperate. We have negotiations ongoing.”

She also said the $5m bail was ridiculous and that Childs was “not the bad actor” in the case.

The City’s tech dept though said they were unaware of any negotiations, and for now, while the network is running, it seems the city authorities are still unable to get in to service the network.

Earlier in the week SF mayor Gavin Newsom said "He was very good at what he did, and sometimes that goes to people's heads and we think that's what this is about."

Childs’ lawyer characterised the case as a misunderstanding that had been blown out of proportion by the media. Certtainly the case has gained worldwide coverage, and will no doubt prompt many organisations to look again at who’s got access to their networks.

Childs seems to have gained Robin Hood-type notoriety amongst some sysadmins. Some have raised the absurdity of someone accused of a data crime which has yet to hurt anyone being held on more bail than someone accused of serious violence, while others have questioned what kind of oversight the San Francisco government exercised if it let someone effectively annexe its entire network. ®

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