TDR

Disgruntled San Francisco admin sentenced to four years

August 9, 2010

A disgruntled San Francisco network administrator, who in 2008 disrupted computer service to the city's FiberWAN network system, was sentenced late last week to four years in prison.

Terry Childs, 45, was convicted in April on one felony count of denying computer services, a violation of California's computer crime law. The case dates back to July 2008 when, reportedly disgruntled about his imminent dismissal, Childs refused to hand over administrative control to the city's FiberWAN network.

His refusal to reveal his exclusive credentials left San Francisco without control of the network for 12 days and led to the city spending $900,000 to reconfigure routers to regain access to the system, prosecutors have said.

“Terry Childs violated the public trust and used his technical know-how to hold the city hostage,” San Francisco District Attorney (DA) Kamala Harris said in a statement. “The four-year prison sentence reflects the magnitude of harm he caused the city and county of San Francisco.”

However, Childs' attorney Richard Shikman told SCMagazineUS.com on Monday that he believes prosecutors misrepresented the incident.

“It's a complicated situation, but I think he probably wishes he would have handled it different and would have conducted himself perhaps in a way that would have avoided the whole situation,” Shikman said. “But I think his conduct does not rise to the level the DA sought to portray it.”

Police arrested Childs on July 12, 2008 in his Pittsburg, Calif. home. Childs has been in custody since his arrest and is currently awaiting transfer to state prison. The time he has already served will be applied to his sentence.

Some security experts believed the sentencing was too harsh, especially considering Childs wasn't out to steal any personal data.

“To sentence Terry Childs to four years in prison is to equate his actions with cybercriminals like [Heartland and TJX hacker] Albert Gonzalez, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Michael Maloof, CTO of information security management firm TriGeo Network Security, said. “I have little sympathy for Childs, but nothing he did was financially motivated. He may be an IT vigilante, and he has been convicted, but he's not a thief.”

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