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Care and maintenance of a WAN caused more than the usual headaches recently--it landed a systems admin in jail on felony counts of computer tampering. Terry Childs apparently rigged the city of San Francisco's system so he had the only access to its Cisco switches and routers. Childs' job was as the go-to guy when the network went down, which included access from his personal computer.
Childs finally gave up the passwords in a meeting with San Francisco's mayor. His motives aren't clear, but his attorney said his coworkers were incompetent and his manager undermining.
So what's the lesson? Hire smart, competent people and it could backfire? More likely, the moral of the story is for organizations to ensure that system controls are shared, and to keep a handle on who has access to how much and which data. With great power comes great responsibility--and the responsibility for a whole city's WAN doesn't rest lightly on anyone's shoulders.
This was first published in September 2008