Ex-employee could owe $1.5 million for network shenanigans

The former city employee who withheld passwords for a major San Francisco computer network could owe more than $1 million for the crime — or as little as $200,000.

Terry Childs, 45, took control of The City’s FiberWAN network in July 2008 after his bosses began looking into his strange behavior in the workplace.

Childs — who was convicted n April of one felony count of computer network tampering with an enhancement alleging the loss of more than $200,000 — is likely to be released from state prison by the end of January, his attorney Richard Shikman said Thursday. He received a four-year sentence in August and has been jailed since his arrest in July 2008.

As he heads toward being a free man, lawyers are fighting about how much he owes for the damage done to the network.

Prosecutors are trying to make Childs pay close to $1.5 million in expenses paid by The City. Those costs were mainly for consultants from companies such as Cisco who stayed on for weeks searching for booby traps and beefing up system security.   

A jury convicted Childs on April 27 of denying computer service. The jury also found true an allegation that damage from the crime exceeded $200,000.

Childs’ attorney argued Thursday that the restitution costs should be much lower. Childs was convicted of stealing the passwords to The City’s FiberWAN network, and Shikman said restitution should be related only to the expenses incurred in recovering those passwords.

“The money was spent to do other things,” Shikman said.

How the passwords were recovered is also what made the case garner nationwide attention. Mayor Gavin Newsom managed to collect the codes in a jailhouse visit to Childs. The system was back on track 12 days after Childs first locked out the rest of The City.

On Thursday, Judge Terry Jackson asked Assistant District Attorney Conrad Del Rosario if he could break down the costs for the 12 days The City was locked out of the system.

But after two years and a six-month trial, Del Rosario was unable to break down the costs by day,
saying that much of the money was paid only by the job done, not hourly.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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