Data tampering leads to arrest

A network administrator making more than $100,000 to oversee San Francisco’s internal fiber optic network was arrested Sunday and will be arraigned today on charges of tampering with the system that stores a majority of The City’s private information.

Terry Childs, 43, is accused of four counts of tampering with The City’s FiberWAN communication network, which connects and stores the data of every division within the city and county of San Francisco. Police said criminal data was not compromised.

City officials would not talk about the specifics of the ongoing investigation but officials say Childs was acting sporadically and making threats in recent months, prompting an investigation by the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services security chief, who was hired earlier this year.

Childs, who worked as a network administrator for about five years, is scheduled to enter a plea this morning in San Francisco Superior Court. He is being held on $5 million bail.

The district attorney charges also call for more than $200,000 in damages, which would help pay an outside contractor to comb through the entire network and eliminate any trace of Childs’ alleged tampering.

“Potentially, the entire city was affected,” said District Attorney Kamala Harris at a news conference Monday announcing the charges.

The FiberWAN network was a recent effort by The City to create a secure platform for communications without having to contract the services to an outside vendor.

“The investigation is ongoing and all we can say is that we have not had any problems or downtime since the investigation began,” said Ron Vinson, the chiefadministrator for San Francisco’s technology department.

The investigation began June 20 and ended on July 10, Harris said.

Last year, a budget analyst’s report found that The City’s IT system is plagued with “inadequate” security. City employees have entered “confidential data into their personal data drives” and vendors and contractors have had “broad access to department information systems.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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