Techie found guilty of shutting down San Francisco

A nutty technology expert who was paranoid that his beautiful network would be damaged by fools, has been found guilty of hijacking the San Francisco city network.

Terry Childs, 45, was guilty of one count of locking out the city from its FiberWAN network containing city e-mails, payroll, police records, information on jail inmates and more — virtually an all-access pass to City Hall.

Childs was arrested in July 2008 after refusing to hand over passwords to the City’s WAN after his bosses felt that he was losing the plot a bit.

However, the case is a bit sad.  The court heard how Childs really lived for his work and was really good at it. However he felt his bosses were stupid and were about to stuff everything up making ignorant technology decisions.

He wired in several passwords to stop them tampering but it effectively gave him control of the entire network.

The FiberWAN network system was the major backbone of the consolidated city-and-county government’s computing infrastructure, connecting hundreds of different departments and buildings to a central data centre, and to each other.

When he refused to hand over the passwords the City locked him up and the network started to grind to a halt.  In the end he gave the passwords to the City mayor from jail.

But the City remained in fear of him. His $5 million bail was set five times higher than most murder defendants’ because the authorities feared that, if released, he might permanently lock the system and erase records.

Childs faces a maximum five year prison term when sentenced June 14. More here