A disgruntled computer engineer working for the City of San Francisco apparently seized control of a new multimillion-dollar computer system. Police arrested Terry Childs, 43, on four charges of computer tampering. Authorities say Childs hacked the city’s new FiberWAN (Wide Area Network), which stores official emails, payroll records, confidential law enforcement documents, and jail bookings. Childs locked the entire system and created a password that gives him exclusive access.
Childs worked for the city for about five years and was disciplined on the job in recent months for poor performance. His supervisors apparently tried to fire him, so Childs hacked the system as an "insurance policy," according to one official. Childs is currently in jail on a $5 million bond, which Child’s defense attorney called excessive.
Childs also allegedly engineered a tracing system to monitor what administrators were saying and doing about his personnel case. Officials fear Childs might have given access to a third party who destroyed hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents. Recovering the system may cost the city millions of dollars.
The city’s computer system continues to operate even though administrators have limited access. "Right now our system is up and running and we haven’t had any problems so far," said Ron Vinson, chief administrative officer. He added that the city is "working around the clock" to keep the system operable and attempt to recover the data.
Article published on July 16, 2008
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