SF mayor gets codes to hijacked city network

IT worker, who has been in custody on felony charges of taking sole control of the city's network, gives access codes to Mayor Gavin Newsom during a secret jailhouse visit.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

The computer network hostage crisis in San Francisco is over, thanks to the city's mayor.

Terry Childs, a network administrator for the city of San Francisco, has been in custody since July 13 on four felony charges of taking control of the city's computer network and locking administrators out. Access to much of the city's information was blocked, including law enforcement, payroll, and jail-booking records.

Childs had reportedly refused to surrender the codes to his supervisors, but after a little more than a week as a guest of the city, he apparently had a change of heart and invited Mayor Gavin Newsom to meet with him, according to a report on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site Monday night.

A secret meeting was arranged at the city jail on Monday afternoon, where Childs gave Newsom the codes to the network. The meeting reportedly was so secret that the police department and district attorney were not informed of the meeting ahead of time.

The codes given to Newsom didn't initially provide access to the system, but a call to Childs' attorney got the city back in the system.

Although the city has regained control of its network, not all is necessarily forgiven. Erin Crane, Childs' defense attorney, is expected to cite his cooperation during a court hearing on Wednesday in a bid to have his $5 million bail reduced.

Crane has argued that Childs was merely protecting the network from incompetent city officials who were trying to force him out of his job.

"Mr. Childs had good reason to be protective of the password," Crane told the newspaper. "His co-workers and supervisors had in the past maliciously damaged the system themselves, hindered his ability to maintain it...and shown complete indifference to maintaining it themselves...He was the only person in that department capable of running that system."