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Disgruntled Computer Engineer Locks San Francisco Officials Out of Computer Network

07/15/2008 -Top administrators of San Francisco's new, multi-million dollar computer network cannot access the system after a disgruntled computer engineer tampered with the network and gave himself exclusive access rights ,reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 43-year old computer engineer, Terry Childs, is in prison on $5 million bail while refusing to divulge to police the pass codes that would give control of the network back to administrators. He is expected to be arraigned today on four felony counts of computer tampering.

According to the Chronicle:

Prosecutors say Childs, who works in the Department of Technology at a base salary of just over $126,000, tampered with the city's new FiberWAN (Wide Area Network), where records such as officials' e-mails, city payroll files, confidential law enforcement documents and jail inmates' bookings are stored.

Childs created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system, authorities said. He initially gave pass codes to police, but they didn't work. When pressed, Childs refused to divulge the real code even when threatened with arrest, they said.

He was taken into custody Sunday. City officials said late Monday that they had made some headway into cracking his pass codes and regaining access to the system.

Childs' tampering with the city's computer system began on June 20, according to authorities. Officials not only fear the possible cost of regaining control of the system, estimated in the millions of dollars, but also worry Childs' gave a third-party access to the system to destroy hundreds of thousands of sensitive city documents.

Although the city's district attorney,Kamala Harris, wouldn't reveal Childs' motivation, one city official told the paper that Childs had been disciplined during the year and his superiors had tried to fire him.

To receive intelligence on these matters, Childs also instituted a tracing system in the department's computer system that tracked what his superiors said about him.

Ron Vinson, chief administrative officer for the Department of Technology, told the Chronicle that the city's computer network is presently up and running without any problems.