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San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case 330

Posted by Soulskill
from the does-it-get-4-years-too dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia follows up on the Terry Childs sentencing, stating that the City of San Francisco is as much at fault in this case as Childs is. 'The way that the San Francisco IT department has been run is nothing short of abysmal, and that has been pointed out time and again by anyone paying attention to this case,' Venezia writes. 'Plenty of dirty laundry was aired out in court as well, yet through it all, the city has had a full-court press on Childs, and being both the plaintiff and the prosecution it spared no expense to drill Childs into the ground.' Worse, perhaps, is the disproportion of the sentence, when compared with recent convictions for intended malfeasance on the part of several notable rogue IT admins."
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San Francisco Just As Guilty In Terry Childs Case

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  • A better link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 16, 2010 @02:48PM (#33267270) Homepage Journal

    "Printable version". [infoworld.com] TFS's link is to a two page version with six paragraphs per page.

    Worse offenders -- even murderers -- get less jail time than Childs
    Consider then, the case of Steven Barnes, the former IT manager for Blue Falcon Networks in San Mateo, Calif. Barnes was convicted of sabotaging Blue Falcon's IT infrastructure in 2008 [4], receiving a sentence of one year and one day in prison and $54,000 in restitution to the company. While Childs' actions caused no disruptions, Barnes deleted all company email, caused the email servers to spew out spam, and intentionally crippled at least some servers, rendering them inoperable. He received a much lighter sentence than Childs -- and in the same court district.

  • Re:Run (Score:0, Interesting)

    by logjon (1411219) on Monday August 16, 2010 @02:56PM (#33267366)
    It's not his boss's property. It's public property. His boss doesn't get to be an idiot with public property.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:05PM (#33267444)

    I would guess it involves political influence and personal pride, both pushing up the sentence because someone's feelings and "good name" were hurt by his actions.'

    AKA Childs made the Mayor upset and look bad, end of story. Politics is never "fair or balanced" and it sure doesn't follow rules.

  • by eleuthero (812560) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:09PM (#33267486)

    ...that Americans are often obsessed by finding a single cause for a problem and the idea that there might be multiple causes is rarely explored.

    I would suggest it isn't so much an "American" trait as it is a convenient news tactic in America. People naturally want answers to questions. The neater and tighter the answer, the more readily it is accepted by the masses, which, of course, means that the news makes more money because they are more trusted. Simplicity is a hallmark of human (not just American) thinking - this takes different forms in different cultures. The main Western logical process is distinct from Eastern varieties but simplicity within the given culture is the tendency. Looking at modern history books covering the Renaissance and comparing them with 19th century history books of the same, we have a much broader viewpoint than those writing in the 1800s had. This is in part due to different access to resources, but in part due to the development of thought over time away from the natural reaction: Simplicity.

    Now, with all that said, this is only... one facet of the change in thought patterns over the past century.

  • by idontgno (624372) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:12PM (#33267536) Journal

    Well, guess what. No matter how much you may think it, generalized poor management is not actually a criminal offense. Whereas, denial of service is.

    Justice is not about fairness. It's "did you break the law, and if so what's the stated punishment?"

    Was the ordinance used to convict him fair and reasonably applied? The only opinion that matters is the jury's, and they thought it so.

    IMHO, Childs may have started out with the best of intentions in his "stand", but it escalated into a pissing match. And you really can't out-piss senior municipal managers and politicians, so you can indict Childs for picking a losing fight.

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:15PM (#33267576) Journal

    The Economist ripped the US a new one [economist.com] last week for locking up too many people, many of them non violent offences. It wasn't so long ago that people were hanged for stealing a loaf of bread, but we backed off from excess punishment (probably a little too far in some cases). But the United States the trend seems to be regressing thanks to grandstanding politicians and bloodthirsty voters who won't countenance even the slightest hint of being "soft on crime". With the way things are going, I truly think that the US will soon bring back public executions before long and will be indistinguishable from countries like Iran in how they deal with crime.

  • Re:Run (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:23PM (#33267684) Journal

    I'm betting the Governors involved would treat him as any other convicted criminal and Childs would add a few more years onto his sentence for escape/flight.....

  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:24PM (#33267708)
    There are about 2.5 million prisoners. With this new blood-thirsty voters, i wonder what will happen when they become 25 millions? My guess is civil war, lol.
  • Re:Run (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wowlapalooza (1339989) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:27PM (#33267750)

    (1) Childs was wrong. You don't withhold passwords from your employer. It's his property, and he's allowed to be an idiot with his own property.

    Please cite a legal authority for your assertion that passwords are "property". Since they are intangible, I can only think that Intellectual Property laws would have bearing on that assertion. But, since the passwords were neither patented nor trademarked nor copyrighted (copywritten?), I don't see how your assertion can hold up.

    In any case, even if you could make a "property" argument, that's not the basis of his conviction. He wasn't convicted for stealing the city's "property". He was convicted under an "anti-hacking" statute. Essentially what they got him on was "denying services to authorized users", which takes quite a bit of intellectual contortion, since no-one ever proved that his actions directly prevented services to any end-users, only that his inaction (i.e. his initial refusal to disclose passwords after his employment was terminated) temporarily inconvenienced administrators, until they could complete their password-recovery procedures. That's clearly not the scenario that the statute was meant to cover, and this turned out to be an incredibly novel precedent for applying "anti-hacking" rules to a run-of-the-mill employer/employee confrontation.

    I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this precedent endangers all of us in the IT field -- taken to its extreme, it means employers can lay claim to anything that ex-employees know, if it helps them run their systems or their networks better. Passwords, code optimizations, little quirks in configurations of various systems/subsystems, the list goes on. All of these are now potentially fair game for employers to force ex-employees to divulge, if they can make a plausible claim that -- however indirectly -- they are necessary to deliver services to their end-users. If the ex-employee refuses to comply, they're in violation of an "anti-hacking" statute. Silence = hacking. Wonderful.

    What is even more amazing is there was a (supposedly) tech-savvy member of the jury, who should have been able to explain what a crock this was, but was swayed by the tech-illiterate arguments of the prosecution and thus could not, or would not, prevent this travesty of justice. He's even posted here on /. trying to rationalize his actions, and his vote.

    I suspect, however, that some peer pressure was involved here, as often happens on juries (I know this firsthand from one of the juries on which I've served).

  • Re:A better link (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:42PM (#33267924)

    Well obviously the 'example' did not stop Childs from doing it, so time to make a new example.

    I bet every IT manager knows of this case now and will most likely never happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:53PM (#33268040)

    The lesson learned is... you don't want to work for the government without a strong union and clear policies backing you.

    Right, because private companies have never screwed over employees. Where the fuck do you randroids come up with this shit?

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:54PM (#33268054) Journal

    Childs undoubtedly waived his right to a speedy trial, like many, many criminal defendants do (and like Kevin Mitnick did, on multiple occasions, all the while dishonestly claiming that he was being denied his right to a speedy trial).

    Game's rigged. If you don't waive your right to a speedy trial, the prosecution will ensure you don't get the information you need to defend yourself until it's too late.

  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Monday August 16, 2010 @03:56PM (#33268074)

    The dude wouldn't turn over passwords when ordered by his Senior Associate. That's just insubordinate in any circumstance, regardless of the job, and will get your ass fired in most places. Terry could have handled things differently if he didn't trust his immediate supervisor, but he didn't. He chose to lie all the way up the food chain and took the for-the-good-of-the-network chip on his shoulder with him.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:12PM (#33268236) Homepage
    Game's rigged. If you don't waive your right to a speedy trial, the prosecution will ensure you don't get the information you need to defend yourself until it's too late.

    The prosecution has to disclose everything before trial. If they do it late enough, you probably have a good argument for appealing. Actually long delays tend to help defendants, because the older the evidence and witnesses get, the weaker the prosecution's case is.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:20PM (#33268358)

    All he would have had to do was what his boss and the policies in place asked him to do.

    You aren't a 'scapegoat' when you can easily and legitimately end the entire situation before it starts.

    You aren't the 'scapegoat' when the situation is one YOU started.

    He could have simply told someone who cared, but instead he decided to take actions into his own hands. His actions were dangerous and illegal. He broke laws and policies that his community set.

    He had several occasions to 'do the right thing' and get in no trouble as well as turn the passwords over to qualified people, but he didn't, he said no, he wasn't going to and tried to hold the systems hostage knowing that anything anyone could do to recover the passwords would result in the equipment losing its configuration, effectively making it worthless and potentially causing problems.

    He set these machines up in this way, AGAINST CITY IT POLICY. He didn't put the configs in the city IT config management system. He didn't put the passwords in the city IT config management system. He broke policy in order to put himself in the situation he was in.

    How the fuck can you call someone a scapegoat when they created the entire problem?

    Oh, I know how ... you have never bothered to read what he did, just assumed the city of SF is 'The EvilZors!@%!'

    Before you start saying 'Mr Childs was trying to show people poor procedures' then I suggest you take a GOOD look at the procedures that where in place as a matter of city policy ... AT LEAST 2 OF WHICH, had he ACTUALLY FOLLOWED PROCEDURE, would have resulted in the city having everything they needed without him.

    The city did its job, Childs didn't. Get the facts next time, you won't look nearly as stupid as you do when you listen to the criminal as if he's not lying through his teeth.

  • Re:Run (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jeff4747 (256583) on Monday August 16, 2010 @04:36PM (#33268568)

    Please cite a legal authority for your assertion that passwords are "property".

    Go put a chain and padlock on your neighbor's gate and see if you get in any trouble. You haven't stolen his property, so everything should be a-ok, right? (Heck, you haven't even trespassed, since he has to warn you once before it's a crime)

    Essentially what they got him on was "denying services to authorized users", which takes quite a bit of intellectual contortion, since no-one ever proved that his actions directly prevented services to any end-user

    He denied access to the replacement administrators. They are authorized users of the system's configuration utilities.

    I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this precedent endangers all of us in the IT field -- taken to its extreme, it means employers can lay claim to anything that ex-employees know, if it helps them run their systems or their networks better.

    Only because you're trying really, really hard to turn this into something it's not. Not turning over the passwords blocked the new adminsitrators from accessing the systems, just as if he DDoS'ed the management ports.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:06PM (#33268956)

    Nah. We'll just have cities turned into massive prisons, and everyone who gets lucky enough to not get caught trying to live their lives will be stuck paying for them... At that point, I think I'd rather just have public executions anyway, though...

  • Re:Run Away! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hibiki_r (649814) on Monday August 16, 2010 @05:17PM (#33269074)

    I've seen many people fight and lose in that situation. It was never pretty, and it didn't work.

    However, after the 5-10-15th person leaves a department and tell HR that disagreements with management was their reason to leave, Someone might do something about it. I just saw it happen a few months ago. People were even refusing headhunter calls alleging that their network claimed that the work environment was unacceptable.

    If the next level of management fails to realize the problem after most positions becomes revolving doors, they'll go under anyway.

  • Re:Not Surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DarkofPeace (1672314) on Monday August 16, 2010 @07:53PM (#33270554)
    Childs is to IT as Hustler is to free speech. If it applies to the "worst"of us it applies to the rest of us.

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