An IT administrator took San Francisco’s new computer system hostage by placing passwords that denied employees access to the system. IT worker Terry Childs, a 43-year-old disgruntled worker, was arrested at his home in Pittsburgh, CA. and charged with four counts of computer tampering.
Childs created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system, authorities said. He initially gave pass codes to police, but they didn’t work. When pressed, Childs refused to divulge the real code even when threatened with arrest, they said.
He was taken into custody Sunday. City officials said late Monday that they had made some headway into cracking his pass codes and regaining access to the system.
Childs has worked for the city for about five years. One official with knowledge of the case said he had been disciplined on the job in recent months for poor performance and that his supervisors had tried to fire him.
Authorities say Childs began tampering with the computer system June 20. The damage is still being assessed, but authorities say undoing his denial of access to other system administrators could cost millions of dollars.
Officials also said they feared that although Childs is in jail, he may have enabled a third party to access the system by telephone or other electronic device and order the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents.
Authorities have searched Childs’ home and car for a device that could be used in such an attack, but so far no such evidence has been found.
As part of his alleged sabotage, Childs engineered a tracing system to monitor what other administrators were saying and doing related to his personnel case, law enforcement officials said.
It is interesting to see how one person can sabotage a complete network system. It also proves that employees can be just as destructive as any outside hacker.