Coding guru relinquishes access

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The city computer engineer accused of holding The City’s network hostage in recent weeks by refusing to turn over the secret access codes finally surrendered them Tuesday to “the only person he could trust” — Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said Newsom agreed to meet with Terry Childs, 43, of Pittsburg after his defense attorney called the mayor Monday and made an overture that he was willing to hand the codes to Newsom and no one else.

Childs has been behind bars since July 13, after he allegedly locked down The City’s central network, called FiberWAN, which he helped create. A judge last week set his bail at $5 million. Childs pleaded not guilty on July 17 to four counts of computer tampering.

A week ago, Newsom told reporters he was wary of visiting Childs because members of his staff were worried that the mayor would then become part of the ensuing trial.

Despite the almost certain prospect of receiving a subpoena to testify in Superior Court for his contact with Childs, Newsom decided to meet the network administrator at 1:30pm Tuesday.

During the meeting, Childs was polite and showed no aggression, said Ballard, who accompanied Newsom to the courthouse.

“He was polite and willing to give over the codes to the mayor,” Ballard said.

Childs had the long series of numbers memorized and wrote them down on a piece of paper and handed it to the mayor.

Computer experts from both The City and Cisco Systems had been working all week to crack into the network.

“Childs told the mayor he was the only person he could trust with the codes,” said Ballard. “Childs is by no means a choir boy, but he is not Charles Manson, either. It was worth a shot.”

Childs apparently handed the information over to Newsom without asking for a plea deal.

“There is no deal on the table. The subject did not come up and the mayor would not have entertained a deal,” Ballard said.

After the meeting, both Newsom and Ballard were separately interviewed by the police since they are now witnesses in the case.

The mayor has directed the Department of Technology to no longer give a single individual sole access to the system again.

Neither Crane nor the District Attorney’s Office returned calls for comment Tuesday.

The District Attorney’s Office set damages for fixing the system at $200,000, though many predicted the costs would reach $1 million for The City.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

No mere Childs play

A timeline of the events leading up to Terry Childs’ surrendering of The City’s network access codes.

Today

Terry Childs is due in court on four felony counts of computer tampering

Tuesday morning, July 22

City regains control of IT system

Monday night, July 21

Childs surrenders access codes to Mayor Gavin Newsom during jailhouse visit

Monday afternoon, July 21

Childs’ attorney invites Newsom to visit her client at city jail

Thursday, July 17

Childs pleads not guilty to four felony charges</p>

Tuesday, July 15

Childs’ bail is set at $5 million

Sunday, July 13

Childs is arrested and charged with four felony counts

Friday, June 20

Childs begins tampering with The City’s computer system, eventually restricting access to more than half of The City’s computer network

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