Disgruntled Computer Engineer Hijacks San Fran's New Computer Network: Jail Not an Obstacle

Illustration for article titled Disgruntled Computer Engineer Hijacks San Fran's New Computer Network: Jail Not an Obstacle

Terry Childs, a 43-year-old computer network administrator in Pittsburgh, is in the midst of a legendary computer hack that has denied administrator access to San Francisco's new multimillion-dollar network. Apparently, Childs was recently disciplined at his job for poor performance and his supervisors unsuccessfully attempted to fire him. So, as an "insurance policy," he hacked San Fran's new Fiber Wan (Wide Area Network), "where records such as officials' emails, city payroll files, confidential law enforcement documents and jail inmates' bookings are stored." Childs has refused to divulge the real passcodes to the system even when faced with arrest and a whopping $5 million bond.

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Despite being in jail, the authorities are worried that he may have enabled a third party to access the system and destroy sensitive information. Administrators still do not have access themselves, but they maintain that the system is up and running and that no serious data problems have come up thus far. The exact motives behind Child's crimes have not been determined, although his frustrations at work seem to be a likely culprit. Still, why someone would commit a crime and throw away a $150,000-a-year job after "almost" being fired is a mystery to me. And I highly doubt that using the true passcodes as a bargaining chip is going to earn him any leverage. [SFGate]

DISCUSSION

@lpc: Having set up and provisioned a few SONETs in my younger days, and having broken and rebuilt many a router, channel bank, CSU/DSU and terminal server (among other cute little boxes), I can tell you that it's possible to get around these things, if you accept a little downtime. It's not like there's really "one password to rule them all" and "none other shall pass". You actually have to go out of your way to create an SPOF these days. Every device has a way of dumping its config and every device has a way of re-setting to defaults. Nobody in SanFran should worry. I'll bet it takes a bearded guy in berkies and suspenders a single afternoon to fix it, provided he gets a pizza, a paperclip, and a couple mountain dews. This guy's going away for a long long time.