City network guru pleads not guilty in lockout case

The network administrator accused of locking down The City’s central database pleaded not guilty to four charges of computer tampering in his arraignment Thursday.

City prosecutors have accused Terry Childs, 43, of creating a single password for FiberWAN, The City's network — which he helped create — thus denying other employees access to city records. He still has not provided authorities with the password.

In court Thursday, Childs did not speak, but let his attorney enter his plea.

Childs, who works in The City’s Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, faces up to seven years in prison if he is convicted on all charges, which include one count of causing losses of more than $200,000 in damages. He was behind bars in lieu of $5 million bail.

Childs’ attorney, Erin Crane, said the bail was “ridiculously high” and that she would seek to lower the amount athis next scheduled hearing, set for Wednesday.

Crane said that Childs has been willing to give up information about his password since Tuesday and that he has been negotiating with city officials on some sort of resolution.

“This has been a big misunderstanding,” Crane said. “I think it’s been blown way out of proportion.”

Ron Vinson, chief administrator for DTIS, said no negotiations or information sharing have taken place between Childs and The City’s technology department.

He did acknowledge that Childs’ attorney may be talking to the police or the District Attorney’s Office.

Erica Derryck of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office declined to offer any comment about the case following Thursday’s arraignment.

Vinson said Childs’ password has locked some DTIS workers out of certain applications, but the department had control over the system.

“Right now, we haven’t had any evidence of data tampering or any kind of booby traps,” Vinson said. “We’re working on regaining complete control of the system.”

The department is still identifying what networks Childs may have locked others out from, Vinson said.

Dana Hom, who said he used to work with Childs at DTIS earlier this decade, said that Childs was “gentle, low-key and extremely competent.”

“This is a travesty of justice,” said Hom, who showed up to support Childs on Thursday. “Terry didn’t commit any crimes. This should have all been handled internally.”

Crane was added to the case Thursday, after the Public Defender’s Office — originally scheduled to represent Childs — backed out, citing a conflict of interest because the computer programmer worked for The City.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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