SF city worker arrested for network tampering

July 15, 2008 7:20:19 PM PDT
A man accused of commandeering the city of San Francisco's computer network for himself is in jail on $5 million bail and he's refusing to give up the password. So, the city is spending time and money trying to make sure its system won't have to be rebuilt.

43-year-old Terry Childs is accused of tampering with the city and county of San Francisco's computer network, giving himself unlimited access while locking out others. He's being held on $5 million bail.

"My understanding is that, based on the charges alleged, there was a threat to public safety and that bail was set accordingly," says spokesperson Erica Derryck.

Mark Jacobs is Childs' public defender. He doesn't understand the bail amount.

"He didn't kill anybody. Murderers usually get a million dollar bail, so you do the math," says Jacobs.

Reporters asked Jacobs if he thinks calling Childs a threat to public safety is an exaggeration.

"I'm a defense attorney. Of course I'm going to say it's an exaggeration. Of course he's not a threat to society. He loves kittens. I mean, what do you want me to say?"

Childs has been a network administrator for San Francisco for the last five years. The network he worked on includes the city's 311 system, employee email and law enforcement records. The computer server involved is now a crime scene.

"Just had a rogue employee that got a bit maniacal and full of himself," says Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom says a team of contractors is working undoing what Childs did.

"Worse case, this is the absolute worst case. It's six to eight weeks they can rebuild the entire system and shut this one down" says Newsom.

But, Department of Technology and Information Systems Director Ron Vinson says it does not appear any data has been lost or hurt. It's just that the appropriate people are locked out.

"It's been business as usual. We have been operating just like we would on any given day with no down time," says Vinson.

Childs will be arraigned on Thursday.