'Rogue admin' thought he was protecting network and city

Paul Venezia at PC World has an exclusive insider account on Terry Childs, the rogue network admin who locked everyone out of the city's network.The story in essence is Childs is an extreme control freak who built and maintained an extremely complex network, perhaps intentionally overly complex to ensure his ability to control it.

Paul Venezia at PC World has an exclusive insider account on Terry Childs, the rogue network admin who locked everyone out of the city's network.

The story in essence is Childs is an extreme control freak who built and maintained an extremely complex network, perhaps intentionally overly complex to ensure his ability to control it. When supervisors tried to rein him in, he reacted poorly.

"Terry also, obviously, had a terrible relationship with his superiors. I should point out that he's not just a network engineer -- he was the lead network engineer for the entire City. His bosses were all managerial rather than technical, and while the other engineers did not actually report to Terry, they did defer to him in any technical matters. Even the network architect left it to Terry to actually figure out implementation. Terry felt that his direct superior was intrusive, incompetent, and obstructive, and that the managers above him had no real idea of what was going on, and were more interested in office politics than in getting anything done. "I don't know much about his actions in the last few weeks. It's been a couple of months, at least, since I've even spoken to him, and even then it was probably only in reference to some specific request or ticket. But I can imagine that being the subject of disciplinary action by his supervisors for "performance" issues would be absolutely infuriating to him. I can imagine that his response would be, "How can you say my performance is poor when I've been doing what no one else here was willing or able enough to do?" If Childs was pressured to give up the keys to the network that he had built and cared for so long, would he go so far as to explicitly prevent anyone else from tinkering with his charge? "I can imagine that [Childs'] response to a demand to open up authentication to the FiberWAN would be, "Why? So you can screw it up and bring the Citynetwork crashing to a halt?" I can even imagine that, under so much pressure, he'd take steps (deleting or hiding config backups, for instance) to make sure he was the only one in control."
Thus the case speaks to some larger issues about IT. The pressures on top network pros, the disconnect between managers and technical experts, the paranoia/arrogance inherent in IT at certain levels. In a way it's a sad story of a talented man who took his job a little too seriously. Says Venezia:
Perhaps it comes with the pressure and responsibility of the job, or the belief that the network they've built is simply too complex for mere mortals to comprehend, but it's not uncommon for highly skilled network administrators to become overprotective of their networks, or for networks of significant size to become an extension of the person who built them. It certainly appears that Terry Childs believed San Francisco's FiberWAN network was his baby, and that by refusing to allow others to access the inner sanctum was in the best interests of the city, the citizens, and perhaps most importantly, himself.

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