City: Computer network no longer vulnerable

San Francisco's primary computer system appears to no longer be vulnerable to tampering by a city network engineer accused of changing passwords and threatening to crash the system, a city spokesman said Wednesday

The engineer's alleged crimes, however, could cost the city up to $1 million.

Terry Childs, 43, of Pittsburg, remains jailed on $5 million bail and has been on unpaid leave from the city's Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, where he worked as a network engineer for five years.

In July, prosecutors charged Childs with felony counts of computer network tampering, alleging he had rigged the city's FiberWAN network with his own passwords and had installed “traps” on the system that would have caused a full system failure if power were to be shut down.

Attorneys for Childs disputed the claim and said he had been a model employee.

DTIS spokesman Ron Vinson said today that the city has regained control of the network and is implementing further safety protocols.

“We are working with our consultants to make sure we have checks and balances in place, to make sure this doesn't happen again,” Vinson said.

The FiberWAN system, which handles about 70 percent of the city's computer traffic, is now running smoothly with no “down time” on the network, according to Vinson.

Vinson said all the passwords have been changed, and though some devices of unknown purpose remain on the network, “We don't feel at this time that our system is vulnerable as a result,” he said.

He said workers are continuing a network vulnerability assessment.

So far, the city has spent nearly $200,000 to repair the system, but officials believe the full cost of repairs may rise to $1 million, Vinson said.

Childs is due back in San Francisco Superior Court on Sept. 24 to set a date for a preliminary hearing in his criminal case. His attorney is also expected to argue to a judge that Childs deserves a second bail-reduction hearing.

DTIS has also been hit by layoffs this year due to the city's budget deficit. Vinson said the department, which employs more than 250 people, was forced to lay off 17 workers, transfer some to other departments, and cut about 10 vacant positions.

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