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Juror Explains Guilty Vote In Terry Childs Case

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the looked-guilty-from-a-distance dept.

The Courts 537

alphadogg writes "Terry Childs, the San Francisco network administrator who refused to hand over passwords to his boss, was found guilty of one felony count of denying computer services, a jury found Tuesday. Now, one of those jurors (Jason Chilton, juror #4) is speaking out in an interview with IDG News Service's Bob McMillan: 'The questions were, first, did the defendant know he caused a disruption or a denial of computer service. It was rather easy for us to answer, "Yes there was a denial of service." And that service was the ability to administer the routers and switches of the FiberWAN. That was the first aspect of it. The second aspect was the denial to an authorized user. And for us that's what we really had to spend the most time on, defining who an authorized user was. Because that wasn't one of the definitions given to us.'"

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Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033852)

As someone who saw through Terry Childs early on, I found myself in the minority here. I took one of my first big karma beatings just pointing out a few ways how this narrative of him being a idealistic professional locked up by his evil, stupid bosses was pretty obviously not possible, even just looking at the bare facts.

What struck me was the way so many of us in the industry instinctively acted out our prejudices, made assumptions, hunted out any shred of fact that supported him (selective and misleading quotes from the CA rulebook, for instance), and even assiduously avoided rational counterarguments and conflicting evidence.

And now here we are at the end of the trial. The evidence is utterly damning. Long before he was fired, he was asked by someone for access to these systems and refused. We know he knew the guy (his boss' boss) was authorized, because there's written evidence in Childs's own emails to that effect. There was no moral justification for what he did. He was just being a criminal, the same as if someone you trusted locked you out of your computer.

Just read: [slashdot.org]

Thanks for your comments, I hope I can address them all. First, he was not fired before asked for access to the FiberWAN. And there's a big distinction there -- not only was he asked for passwords, he was asked for "access". I can understand not giving up your personal username and password, but also not allowing anyone else there own access is entirely different. However, he did go into this meeting knowing that he was being "reassigned", so I'm of the frame of mind that he actually thought he was being fired. After a long period of different claims -- including that he didn't remember them, that he himself had been locked out of the system for three months (even though he was working on it that morning), providing incorrect passwords -- he was placed on administrative leave. He was even scheduled to have a meeting the next week with the CTO of the city to discuss the matter. However, he made one of the biggest mistakes then that he could have. While under police surveillance, he decided then to leave the state and make cash withdrawals of over $10,000. He was arrested, and that's where it became a criminal matter instead of simply an employment matter.

I think this is a good moment for all of us to reflect on how rallying around this lying criminal stained our profession, and how we should practice the same objectivity with ourselves and those "in the downtrodden world of IT" that we expect in others.

Re:Take some time and think (5, Interesting)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033956)

I tend to agree.

I don't see this as one of our own being unjustly persecuted.

I see bad behavior combined with a smug sense of self-importance causing real damage and being properly punished for it.

The real question is later, after he finishes whatever jail/house arrest/probation period, who will hire him?

Will those that defend him here find a way to bring him onboard at their organizations?

Re:Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

gabereiser (1662967) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034056)

We may find that in his sentencing, he may be barred from doing that line of work in the future. I don't think anyone would hire him in an IT department after doing a simple background check on him (this being a felony would definitely show up). So the question I propose is, was it worth it? I know a lot of IT Admins that have this "Holier than thou" attitude and unfortunately for Mr. Childs, it bit him where it hurts.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Interesting)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034124)

I see bad behavior combined with a smug sense of self-importance causing real damage and being properly punished for it.

Interestingly, that could describe Hans Reiser has well. I think it's the disease of our profession.

I would be willing to hire him, though I think maybe I'd want to review the case and work history a little more before making that decision. I would just make it very clear to him that he did not have sole authority over the network and make sure that others always had access.

Hah! (-1, Flamebait)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034494)

I would be willing to hire him,

Let me put it this way.

I would not be willing to hire you.

Re:Hah! (0, Offtopic)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034840)

Let me put it this way.

Who are you and why do we care?

Re:Hah! (0)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034910)

And who is "Omnifarious" either? It's a joke, dude.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034532)

Hans Reiser is just another inept murderer, the fact that happened to be good at something else is irrelevant.

I really don't think murdering your spouse is a common trait in the computing professions.

Sysadmins acting like they "own" the equipment, and programmers acting like they "own" the code is however, common enough. But I think that's much more universal than computing.

I suspect other people who work with one thing closely have the same "attachment". Drivers and "their" truck/bus/etc (ignoring independent owner/drivers of course who do have that claim).

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034792)

Sysadmins acting like they "own" the equipment, and programmers acting like they "own" the code is however, common enough. But I think that's much more universal than computing.

As sysadmins, we're basically hired to be the ultimate authority on whether or not problem X can be solved with what hardware and manpower is currently under our (sometimes totalitarian) control. As the person employed to manage and/or oversee management of that hardware and software, you should act like you own it, and also inform those who you report to on whether or not the systems are adequate for the task at hand or the task upcoming. Further, if you're fired or replaced, you no longer technically have that authority, and it is most definitely your responsibility to transfer the power that it came with to whoever does at that point.

As sysadmins, we care deeply about the architecture and health of the infrastructure we manage, and especially of those we design and implement. Giving up the keys, as it were, sucks, but unless you literally own the system, it's just the thing you inevitably have to do some day. I'm pretty sure that all of us understand that though. It seems that Childs may not have.

Re:Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034666)

Interestingly, that could describe Hans Reiser has well. I think it's the disease of our profession.

Oh, please. It's called being human. We're naturally more inclined to distrust those different from us and trust those who are like us. Grifters will prey on their own ethnic groups because there's naturally less suspicion. A black man is going to scam other blacks more successfully than whites. A white woman is going to scam other whites easier. And if you share a religion, why, that makes you all the safer! Because no good Christian would ever scam another Christian. And it's always easier to find sympathy for a pretty person than for an ugly one. Human nature.

As geeks, we're naturally willing to give Hans the benefit of the doubt because we identify with him. It takes time to read the case and realize just how screwed up the guy is. Bernie Madoff got away with what he did for so long because Jews weren't expecting to get fucked over by a pillar of their community. Christians have a lot more experience with that sort of thing. Likewise, other rich people weren't expecting a fraud from a guy of his pedigree. He was in all the right clubs, he was an outstanding member of the uppper class.

Don't make us geeks out like we're the only stupid ones. There's plenty of stupid to go around here.

Re:Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32033962)

You were making assumptions like everyone else by assuming you had enough facts to declare him guilty. There were plenty of people claiming he was innocent, but a lot of the conversation was speculative, and there's nothing wrong with that. Now that the trial is done we have access to more facts, so just because you guessed right doesn't make you smarter.

As far as "lying criminal," even the juror said it would have been better if it was just handled internally, but it wasn't. So yeah he lied and he was found guilty, but it went way too far as a direct result of bad decisions by both him AND the city. So I think you're being really harsh about it. You've said why you think other people were emotionally invested in finding him innocent, but from your multiple posts on it you seem to have been to be emotionally invested in finding him guilty.

Re:Take some time and think (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034082)

You were making assumptions like everyone else by assuming you had enough facts to declare him guilty. There were plenty of people claiming he was innocent, but a lot of the conversation was speculative, and there's nothing wrong with that. Now that the trial is done we have access to more facts, so just because you guessed right doesn't make you smarter.

I know that I defended him on the basis of his being fired before being asked for the passwords, which was what was in the news. Goes to show both that the media was not his enemy, and that listening to the media is dumb. Sorry for being dumb, not sorry for defending an apparently hypothetical Childs who didn't exist.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034192)

I am with you there, finding out more of the facts, the guy didn't deserve prison time, but he definitely was being stupid about handling the situation.

Re:Take some time and think (1, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034918)

After reading the article, I stand by points I made in earlier discussions.

What we have here is a travesty and not justice. We have a juror who was given faulty jury instructions, who had relevant information withheld from them. And in the end, the decision made by the jurors amounted to what it looks like from the start - a collection of people who did not know anything about what they were looking at, scared by the prosecutors saying this is "w00h scary internets stuff", and making a faulty decision and a verdict that's a mockery of the law.

The legal system is broken.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034986)

Finding out more of the facts, it's becoming clearer to me that Childs was trying either to get revenge or extort some sort of offer of compensation for releasing the network to its owners' control. You don't go on the lam over a misunderstanding. His behavior in the weeks before the meeting indicates it was contemplated and suggests it was planned. His actions in stalling during and after the meeting, and then his flight, prove he had intent to continue to disrupt the business of the city.

Yesterday I was okay with the verdict and with the idea of "time served" being the extent of the punishment. Today, I'd push for the 5 years.

What I want to know now is why did the trial take so long? And why did it have to go into technical detail? The issue wasn't technological in nature. It was a simple matter of a guy having authority, losing that authority, and refusing to give the tools of that authority back to the owners of the authority. The use of the "denial of service" charge is a bit obtuse, but was sufficient; in truth, there should be a law specifically dealing with intentional refusal to relenquish control of government property, whether it's of any use or not.

Re:Take some time and think (3, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034276)

That's what I would call "false balance" or the desire to create equality or parity where none exists.

His story didn't make sense. I didn't need to rely on any assumptions to point out how. You only need to actually read the rules that everyone loved to reference without reading themselves to see how unlikely his story was to be true.

If you look back at my posts - please do - you'll see that all I did was point out the ways the story obviously didn't make sense. I have no emotional investment in Terry Childs - other than wishing he really wasn't guilty, because when one person in our profession behaves as badly as I feared he did, it affects all of us.

As often happens when you use your common sense instead of your emotions, you are more likely to be right. That's all that happened here. And if you're denying that, be my guest. But I'm going to point out that you're missing an opportunity to learn something valuable about yourself.

Don't even try that. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033982)

I think this is a good moment for all of us to reflect on how rallying around this lying criminal stained our profession, and how we should practice the same objectivity with ourselves and those "in the downtrodden world of IT" that we expect in others.

How many charges were initially filed against him? How many charges was he found guilty of?

Note the discrepancy in those numbers.

At least now the facts are out and we can determine for ourselves whether the law was applied correctly (and if so, whether the law itself is at fault).

Try what? (1, Interesting)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034176)

He's a criminal. What happened between the time he was arrested and conviction isn't that unusual as the DA refined the case, let alone in a case with some technical complexity. He deserves to be where he is, in jail.

Re:Try what? (5, Informative)

Loser4Now (1119949) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034286)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471504574438900830760842.html [wsj.com]

You're a criminal too. You just haven't been charged yet.

Re:Try what? (-1, Offtopic)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034426)

I would call that a lame attempt to change the subject.

We do not require that every law be perfect, or a legal regime to have no flaws, for us to have any notion of right and wrong, or criminal and victim.

Re:Try what? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034794)

Kindly shut the fuck up, no one here gives a rat's ass about your smug opinions.

And what if he wins the appeal? (0)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034370)

He's a criminal. ... He deserves to be where he is, in jail.

No. He was found guilty. He can appeal and that appeal may reverse that finding.

In which case, your statements would be wrong.

What happened between the time he was arrested and conviction isn't that unusual as the DA refined the case, let alone in a case with some technical complexity.

I don't care if it is "unusual" or not. The fact is that the FACTS were not available PRIOR to the trial. So there is no basis for your statement about how any of us "stained our profession".

If, upon appeal, this case is reversed, does that then mean that you have then "stained our profession"?

No? Then do not claim that others have.

Re:And what if he wins the appeal? (3, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034580)

Why not? He is guilty. He has stained our profession, and these unseemly and ridiculous attempts to defend and justify criminal behavior by resorting to the kinds of pathetic errors of logic that we normally scoff at others for making do even worse.

By your own logic, we can never call anyone a criminal, since merely being convicted is not enough. Hardly anyone is beyond an appeal or reversal in judgement.

You're also leaving aside how damning the evidence really is against him. Which is really astounding to me. I highly doubt he will be getting out of this.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034016)

When a jury reaches a verdict, I usually give them the benefit of a doubt. They saw the trial, I didn't.

But I will not hesitate to defend someone again when it seems like they might be wrongfully accused. Far too often people are thought of as guilty just because they are charged. The state should have to make its case against a vigorous and heated defense. Being convicted in the court of public opinion can be quite damaging to someone, and there is no recourse. I'm happy to have that conviction happen after the real one instead of before.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034158)

Notably the jurors weren't given a definition of authorized persons. I'd say that's pretty substantial to his own defence as I recall.

If you don't feel that anyone is properly authorized to receive the information you possess or that it will cause harm, then "just do it, its your employer" isn't good enough.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034244)

I would have to agree to that. Authorized in this situation should have been defined from the beginning. Childs worked on his own definition of authorized as that was never given to him either. Did he fail to give the passwords to the person he felt was authorized? I thought the Mayor got the passwords in the end, so how did he not deliver them to an authorized person?

Rhetorical questions, not directed at you, just stating that they haven't been properly answered yet.

Re:Take some time and think (2, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034352)

Agreed entirely.

I thought the definition of authorized persons was the most important part of the case.

Failing to establish that, I'd have to find him not guilty.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034536)

Ah, perhaps you should RTFA! :)

Eventually we looked at it and we saw that in late June his manager had requested certain accounts to be created that would have access to certain routers and switches. And he did create those accounts, and he sent that back in an email with the user IDs and passwords, to which Richard Robinson was also copied. If his big concern was that Richard Robinson was not authorized to be a user, why -- just a week before -- did he copy him on an email that has user IDs and passwords?

Re:Take some time and think (1)

mconeone (765767) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034640)

If you read the article, it wasn't so much that he didn't hand over his passwords, as it was the fact that he could have easily given someone else access without revealing his passwords.

Re:Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034314)

If you don't feel that anyone is properly authorized to receive the information you possess or that it will cause harm, then "just do it, its your employer" isn't good enough.

He was told "you are not looking after our FiberWAN network anymore, someone else is. Hand over the keys so that your successor can do their job". He used to be properly authorised because it was his job to look after the network. If the company gives the job to someone else, that person is then authorised. If he doesn't feel that his successor is authorised then this feeling is completely irrational. This wasn't about authorisation, this was about one man deciding that he deserved the power to look after his network, and nobody else did.

Unfortunately, he didn't just grumble and moan and complain, he actually took action. He actively prevented _anyone_ from accessing "his" network. On a personal level I can understand how this happened, and unsympathetic or clumsy employers probably didn't help, but the fact is that his actions were highly illegal.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034958)

He was told "you are not looking after our FiberWAN network anymore, someone else is. Hand over the keys so that your successor can do their job". He used to be properly authorised because it was his job to look after the network.

"Mr Jones, you no longer fly this space shuttle. Hand the keys over to Bob the janitor. Bob, take 'er up!".

Quite seriously, I would call a city-wide WAN (particularly on the scale of SF) considerably more complex than flying the space shuttle. Even a highly competent network engineer might take months to map the whole thing out starting with nothing but a handful of router passwords.

Being told "give Bob access" and "GTFO" very much count as mutually exclusive instructions.


In his shoes, I probably would have just turned over the passwords and walked out, laughing in the knowledge that I'd get a call in a week begging me to fix the smoking ruins of their network at any price. I can, however, appreciate the sense of misplaced possession in wanting to defend "his" network; I would say that most admins feel somewhat protective of the networks they maintain.

Childs just took it too far. But, so did the city in pressing criminal charges against him.

Took some time to think. (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034064)

"That was the first aspect of it, the second aspect was the denial to an authorized user. And for us that's what we really had to spend the most time on, defining who an authorized user was. Because that wasn't one of the definitions given to us." ...and on that point alone, this conviction should be overturned, since it was the entire fracking point..

Re:Took some time to think. (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034260)

If an underling is authorized to use a corporate resource, why wouldn't you also expect the underling's boss (or boss's boss, in this case) to also be authorized for that resource?

Seriously, what was the argument for concluding that his boss or boss's boss didn't qualify as an authorized user?

Re:Took some time to think. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034430)

Because it's common practice in IT for this to happen. The underling needs the information to do his job, his boss doesn't. You don't spread sensitive information around simply because you can. Especially since his boss, as chiefly a manager, may not have the training to properly handle all the information.

Re:Took some time to think. (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034662)

Sure, the manager might not be qualified to use that information, but he certainly requires it to do his job, even if his job is to merely provide that information to the next person they hire.

Any information an underling needs to do his job should be available to the underling's boss if only so that the underling can be replaced if required (on the event that the underling is fired, quits, or gets hit by a bus or something).

Re:Took some time to think. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034630)

yes. there is reason for that argument.

http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/dtis/coit/Policies_Forms/CCISDA_security.pdf

Re:Took some time to think. (2, Informative)

lambent (234167) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034652)

the boss of a forklift driver may not necessarily be licensed or authorized to drive said forklift. in a case like that, where someone can cause significant damage by not being properly trained in how to use a resource, access should definitely be denied.

Re:Took some time to think. (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034848)

So to take your analogy to the next level...the forklift driver should hide the keys to make sure his boss can't take it for a spin after hours?

Or should they be placed in a location that the boss has access to so that when the forklift driver calls in sick, quits, gets fired or hit by a bus someone else can be brought in to drive the thing?

Re:Take some time and think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034070)

I could see refusing to a point but if my employer ends our relationship I could not in a good frame of mind NOT give back control to my former employer.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034134)

While under police surveillance, he decided then to leave the state and make cash withdrawals of over $10,000. He was arrested, and that's where it became a criminal matter instead of simply an employment matter.

Is leaving a company in working order a criminal offense now? The fact that nothing broke until the new guys got ahold of the equipment was signs enough that his intent was not criminal, but self-preservative. It's understandable that he could be taken into custody under suspicion -- but the lack of damage showed that those suspicions were misplaced. Then, the complete incompetence shown by his employers showed that his motives were much more likely to be abandoning a sinking ship, piloted by blame-happy idiots than some short-sighted plot for revenge. At that time, it should have reverted back to an employment matter, and criminal charges should have been dropped.

Re:Take some time and think (2, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034348)

Leaving a company locked out of their equipment is not leaving them in working order, nor does it constitute a "lack of damage."

If you can be that wrong, there's not much point in addressing the other ways your "interpretation" of the facts is wrong.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

lisany (700361) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034698)

The City wasn't locked out. Not when there is a built-in method to recover the keys by way of password recovery mechanisms in the Cisco gear the City used.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034844)

Utter nonsense.

He left them with their only option being security resets on a large and geographically spread out set of equipment. This would have cost the city $200,000 by the estimate I saw.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034950)

He deliberately disabled password recovery, according to this post [slashdot.org] by one of the jurors.

Re:Take some time and think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034206)

Information is key, whether here on this forum, or any modern news outlet.

Had the case information been released in tandum to the public, the tone here around this case would have been much different, IMO. In the absense of information, speculation reigns supreme. The /. community, like everyone else, is just as vulnerable to assumption.

Re:Take some time and think (2, Interesting)

Loser4Now (1119949) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034226)

It's my understanding his boss's boss asked for the passwords over an intercom, with police and HR present. The boss's boss was authorized, those others, not so much.

I think Terry fscked up. I think he should have been fired. I don't think he should have served 2 years, with the probability of 3 more plus a lifetime stain of FELON for being a paranoid system admin. And apparently I'm not the only one.

My least favorite part about this whole trial is that they removed a guy who was going to vote not guilty. It doesn't matter why he was going to vote not guilty. They decided they didn't like his verdict, and replaced him. Talk about a fscking miscarriage of justice.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034340)

Frankly, this is SOP on Slashdot. Take any other subject that's discussed here, like George Lucas, Star Trek, the programming language du jour, etc., etc., etc., and you'll find a large portion of the posting and moderating population will lean one way and tend to overwhelm other opinions.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034440)

> As someone who saw through Terry Childs early on,
>
> blah blah blah

This is about sending someone to prison over not giving up a password to a boss.

Think about that for awhile.

If you still don't get it, I am sure someone else will happily clue you in.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034752)

I've thought about it. I've expressed my thoughts.

I understand it's tough to man up and admit that, even though we imagined he symbolized our struggle with obnoxious and ignorant management, the guy really did turn out to be a crazy, egotistical kook. But I would suggest taking the medicine. There are plenty of worthy causes to get behind. Plenty. His attempt to justify locking ones' bosses out of the company/government equipment when aggrieved just didn't turn out to be one of them.

Re:Take some time and think (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034604)

As someone who saw through Terry Childs early on, I found myself in the minority here. I took one of my first big karma beatings just pointing out a few ways how this narrative of him being a idealistic professional locked up by his evil, stupid bosses was pretty obviously not possible, even just looking at the bare facts.

There were lots of people on both sides all along. Here is one guy, modded up to +5 [slashdot.org] . If you find yourself getting modded down, it's probably because you come across as an angry old man, and I say that in the kindest possible way. For example, in this comment you say [slashdot.org] :

You know, babyish insults kind of give up that you are a baby, David. And what's moronic? Contradicting yourself in a written medium like this, when it's so obvious. People generally read these in chronological order, you know.

Not cool, it looks a lot like flamebait. Also, in your present post you come across as sounding like, "haha I was right, you were wrong!!!! Suck it losers!!!!" A lot of your posts sound like that, actually. You should work on that.

Re:Take some time and think (5, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034708)

I think this is a good moment for all of us to reflect on how rallying around this lying criminal stained our profession, and how we should practice the same objectivity with ourselves and those "in the downtrodden world of IT" that we expect in others.

Childs' arguments reminded me of the kind of quasi-legal nitpicking one sees in Slashdot posts almost every day. It's the same kind of thing you see when you have two children in the back seat on a long road trip, and one or both of them are determined to pick a fight, so whatever rules you lay down, they interpret them as literally and selectively as possible in order to violate the spirit of the rule while keeping tenuously to the letter. Child A pokes child B, so you tell them not to touch each other, at which point A pokes B with some object, arguing that he didn't poke B, the object did. Similar rationales come up whenever copyright violations are discussed. It is, no pun intended, childish. Pirate all the mp3s you want, but show enough respect for other people's intelligence (and have enough balls) not to play word games about it.

At the end of the day, Terry Childs threw a tantrum using an exceedingly narrow and selective interpretation of the rules and then didn't have the good sense or maturity to back down before he ran afoul of the law. Your boss asks you to do something? In most cases -- including this one -- you can either do what you're asked to do or quit. And if you quit, walking off with company property, passwords included, is something that you can reasonably expect to be prosecuted for.

I don't think the sentence should be particularly harsh in light of the fact that the defendant is plainly emotionally immature and the level of actual harm done doesn't appear to have risen above the level of nuisance, but Childs is not some kind of innocent martyr in the name of principle, and his conviction does not bode particularly ill for any other IT worker with a modicum of maturity and common sense.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034760)

But what does that mean? He did other things, some of which were more clearly criminal. Fine. Was he found guilty of *only* those things, such that his trial can't be used as precedent in the way everyone's worried about? (putting us in jail for following established security procedures)

I'm reminded of the Lori Drew case. Lori Drew was a sleazebag and helped taunt an emotionally fragile girl to death. But they tried to punish her by using an interpretation of the law which would make everyone into criminals. This would have been extremely bad for all of us.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034876)

I believe the charge they finally went with, and the one that stuck, was that he criminally denied people access to their own computing equipment. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Nothing like the Lori Drew/bullying issues, which I agree are a terribly murky legal issue, where you really must struggle to justify prosecuting versus free speech rights.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034822)

That's insane.

I'm put on "administrative leave" so since I'm on leave and stressed about my work prospects I decide to take a trip Vegas on my own time to spend my own money to try and relax a bit.

This is the biggest mistake I could make?

WTF?

Remember Hans Reiser (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034886)

What struck me was the way so many of us in the industry instinctively acted out our prejudices, made assumptions, hunted out any shred of fact that supported him (selective and misleading quotes from the CA rulebook, for instance), and even assiduously avoided rational counterarguments and conflicting evidence.

After the Hans reiser story, I saw that coming 100 miles away and avoided the terry child discussion. Turns out I was right.

Re:Take some time and think (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034894)

I think this is a good moment for all of us to reflect on how rallying around this lying criminal stained our profession,

You're absolutely right. This nonsense of presuming someone to be innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law has got to stop.

and how we should practice the same objectivity with ourselves and those "in the downtrodden world of IT" that we expect in others.

Perhaps the phrase you're looking for is "fair and balanced", not "objective".

So (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033858)

It boils down to that the definition of "was" was.

Re:So (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32033932)

Well "Is" appearantly means to insert a cigar into a vagina. So I guess "was" is the next great frontier.

Re:So (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32033984)

Exactly. Even if he broke the letter of the law, I think the real story here and why it has developed so much interest is because of the penalties that can be applied and the selective enforcement of laws.

How many of us can say we've never been in a similar situation, or one that could be brute forced through court even if we were "right". Honestly, this could be any admin. Someone famous once said something about throwing stones.

Interesting, a competent jury (4, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033886)

They clearly understood the issues and had a very fine judgement call to make. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I no longer feel they were idiots who made a clearly bad call.

I hope they recommended the lightest possible sentence when giving their verdict. They can't determine the sentence, but I think they can give the judge advice.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034042)

except that "denial-of-service" doesn't mean denying them your services.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034166)

except that "denial-of-service" doesn't mean denying them your services.

And that's not the conclusion the jury reached. They defined 'denial-of-service' as denying the city the ability to administrate its network without Terry Childs, and I think that's legitimate and clearly the case.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (1)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034316)

They defined 'denial-of-service' as denying the city the ability to administrate its network without Terry Childs, and I think that's legitimate and clearly the case.

Except that it's not.

If that's the case, then every sysadmin is guilty of denial of service when they leave their job (for whatever reason) - because we know how the systems work.

Quit? That's denial of service.
Get fired? That's denial of service.
Get hit by a bus and spend a year in a coma? That's denial of service.

It's patently absurd for this to be considered "legitimate".

I have to agree with that. (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034456)

"Denial of service". Words that the average person believes s/he understands. So s/he must understand the implications of that phrase, right?

No.

Which makes it even worse that the CCIE didn't correct the jury about.

A DoS means that a service your system is offering is being denied. It is NOT about humans providing services.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034720)

Only the incompetent ones.

A competent sysadmin would have passwords secured in a repository somehow, as CHILDS WAS INSTRUCTED TO DO BUT DID NOT.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (5, Informative)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034150)

Not really. I've served on a couple (in San Francisco even) and they pretty much just dismiss you and send you on your way right after the verdict. You can come back for sentencing if you want, but after weeks/months in the courtroom thats pretty much the last thing you want to do.

I guess you could put a note in there or something, but most of the time unless you read up on the statutes in question you don't know how much jail time he's facing or whatnot. And personally, I think to be completely objective its probably better not to know. Your job is to apply the law and answer the question if beyond reasonable doubt did the defendant break the law. That's it. You have to do it objectively and I think knowing that you're personally responsible for sending some guy to jail for 20 years might make some people "iffy" on returning a guilty verdict. Its pretty black and white - there's no "guilty, but only by a little bit". Obviously there are some cases (death penalty, civil suits) where the jury does make the decision on the outcome after the "who won" phase, but for something like this its up to the judge.

I would certainly hope that they give him time served considering he's been in jail a couple of years already. Having read a bunch on this and followed the story my opinion is that he's guilty, but honestly he should have just been fired and fined. Its not like he was trying to defraud the city or personally gain from this or from what I can tell had any malicious intent beyond "these guys are idiots". I wouldn't hire him, but in the grand scheme of things it sounds like he's just a jerk who could still be a productive member of society.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (5, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034270)

You have to do it objectively and I think knowing that you're personally responsible for sending some guy to jail for 20 years might make some people "iffy" on returning a guilty verdict.

I disagree. I think a big part of the jury's job is justice, not necessarily just determining guilt or innocence. There needs to be a better brake on politicians for requiring ever increasing and ridiculous punishments for a crime, and one big brake would be a jury refusing to convict because the sentence is too severe.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (1)

Intrinsic (74189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034738)

Mod Parent Up.

Re:Interesting, a competent jury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034282)

Why the lightest possible sentence ? Would you want to be locked out of your house by a house guest - and then expect him to get a slap on the wrist ?

Terry Childs was just a jackass - a jackass that decided he was the only one competent enough to handle the computers. I have seen IT professionals who think they are the only ones who can do something... and this is a good warning. If you have a boss - listen to him.

no job is worth jail time (4, Interesting)

jimmyfrank (1106681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32033992)

Seriously, I have, against my recommendations, incompetent managers telling me to stupid things all the time. All that can be done is voicing my opinion on why it's "stupid." Often those bad decisions come back to haunt, I like to call it, "feeling the pain." But I'd personally never risk getting in that sort of trouble for a silly job.

Here is the key, I think (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034090)

Two points brought up in the interview really stand out to me, first this one:

If he had not decided to leave and go to Nevada a few days later and withdraw US$10,000 in cash, [Childs did this the day before his arrest, while under police surveillance] I think the police may have let it continue on as an employment issue and not a criminal matter.

I can understand the police thinking, "wow, he's locked down the network, and now trying to run away. What is going to do to the network once he gets to Mexico?" Secondly, this:

Eventually we looked at it and we saw that in late June his manager had requested certain accounts to be created that would have access to certain routers and switches. And he did create those accounts, and he sent that back in an email with the user IDs and passwords, to which Richard Robinson was also copied. If his big concern was that Richard Robinson was not authorized to be a user, why -- just a week before -- did he copy him on an email that has user IDs and passwords?

So there is evidence to say it was about control of the network, and not about security policy (there's more if you read the article).

Still, it's really hard for me to say anything he did deserves jail time. Getting fired, yes, he should have been, but jail time? That seems a bit much. Someone once said, "If you skate close to the edge of the ice, you're likely to fall in," and I guess that's what Terry did here, and he got burned.

Re:Here is the key, I think (5, Funny)

sribe (304414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034248)

"If you skate close to the edge of the ice, you're likely to fall in," and I guess that's what Terry did here, and he got burned."

You should get a +5 funny just for the mixed metaphor ;-)

Re:Here is the key, I think (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034402)

Someone once said, "If you skate close to the edge of the ice, you're likely to fall in,"

I'd be more worried to fall through than to fall over... but "fall in" covers both. Interesting.

Re:Here is the key, I think (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034980)

I can understand the police thinking, "wow, he's locked down the network, and now trying to run away. What is going to do to the network once he gets to Mexico?" Secondly, this:

Or better yet, not do? Just drop off the map like a giant "fuck you" and force them to hard-reset everything. To me he certainly sounds like the type who could have done it.

Ha! (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034104)

I stand by my original post [slashdot.org] .

Re:Ha! (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034620)

Of course that works both ways.

The jury gets a very selective presentation of the facts. They even tend to reject people
from jury pools if they happen to have a relevant clue. Both attorneys will try to present
only the information that suits them while trying to supress information that doesn't.

So from a certain perspective you're right.

The rest of us can't know what sort of blinders the jury were forced to wear.

Habeas Corpus (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034182)

The real question should be "Who, if anyone, was harmed by Terry Childs's actions?" The next question should be "Does that harm really justify taking away several years of his life?" Look, I'm the first to admit that Childs was being a dick. But so were his managers, and the punishment is way out of proportion to the crime. $5 million bail?!? WTF!

Re:Habeas Corpus (2, Interesting)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034382)

The real question should be "Who, if anyone, was harmed by...

That can be a really tricky question for an awful lot of illegal activities, which is why the question posed to the jury is: "Was this rule broken?" Whether or not that merits jail time is a function of the legislators and the judge.

Re:Habeas Corpus (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034392)

There was potential harm. Something could have happened and nobody would have been able to fix it.

Since it was only potential harm, I don't think this does deserve a prison sentence, and I hope he doesn't suffer too great a punishment. I'd even like to see him get another job. That's partly out of sympathy for him, but he has useful skills and in an environment where they're simply more used to this personality type (most tech companies should be able to work with him), he should be a beneficial employee.

Re:Habeas Corpus (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034674)

Potential harm is meaningless.

OTOH, if someone had actually been harmed then a good case for criminal negligence could have been made at that point.

It really does no service to justice or law & order to make up shit and abuse the rules and government authority.

This is the kind of stupid nonsense that makes felons out of everyone.

Of course people that can't see the big picture are also the first to scream that you should just do whatever your stupid boss tells you.

Re:Habeas Corpus (1)

Seraphim1982 (813899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034598)

$5 million bail?!? WTF!

If you look like you might flee then you either get really high bail, or none at all. Terry Child was arrested preparing to flee the state. I don't know of any better way to announce the fact that you're a flight risk.

Re:Habeas Corpus (1)

evan1l38 (73680) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034826)

I dunno. Remember that shoe bomber, Richard Reid? His bomb didn't go off. So ... who, if anyone, was harmed by HIS actions? It's not really a useful question to ask I think.

I think I'd have felt worse for Childs except that he just so clearly brought this on himself ... two seconds of him not being a dick would have resolved everything nicely.

Power & Control (0, Troll)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034288)

Computer guy felt like he owned the public's computer system. He claimed the power to dictate how public property was used.

Little petty tyrant wannabe.

So have that juror explain to us (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034312)

What the punishment should be, for that VERY bosses who were authorized to have those passwords, after they have disclosed LIVE usernames and passwords to the system as evidence in a PUBLIC court, therefore causing a disruption of 2-3 days in the city services in the ensuing chaos, and potentially paving the way for an untold number of hacking incidents that may or may not have taken place ?

it is probable that terry childs knew his bosses were STUPID enough to be capable of doing things of this, well, stupidity.

so, he should have just willy nillily disclose the passwords to the stupid management, and just get the responsibility off him, whereas endangering the private information of city services and maybe millions of citizens in the process ?

a similar example comes to mind, maybe if a bit exaggerated :

you are the commanding officer of a nuclear silo. you get orders from your boss to initiate a launch, ending lives of hundreds of millions, and potentially ending the world. your boss is an idiot of the first order and screws up regularly. but, the order is compliant with the procedure.

what do you do ? do you kill the stupid jurors who would find you guilty in case you refused ? or would you save their lives ?

i would like the juror to explain.

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

hf256 (627209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034376)

The difference is obviously in intent, the passwords in the filings was a mistake, everything Terry Childs did was pre-meditated. Which remotely competent network admin stores router configs on an encrypted DVD without a wr mem?

Re:So have that juror explain to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034468)

a similar example comes to mind, maybe if a bit exaggerated :

you are the commanding officer of a nuclear silo. you get orders from your boss to initiate a launch, ending lives of hundreds of millions, and potentially ending the world. your boss is an idiot of the first order and screws up regularly. but, the order is compliant with the procedure.

what do you do ? do you kill the stupid jurors who would find you guilty in case you refused ? or would you save their lives ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson_Tide_(film) ?

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034572)

If Childs had not been a dick and handed over the passwords to the auditor first and later his bosses after he was fired, they never would have been exposed in public court. Childs caused the situation you are attempting to hang is bosses for.

The dude was canned, he no longer had any right to those passwords. Had he actually acted like a professional and handed them over, none of this would have happened.

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034936)

those people were capable of disclosing those passes on a public court. it means that they are capable of doing other stupid things of equal level. they would do something else.

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034624)

so, he should have just willy nillily disclose the passwords to the stupid management

Yes. His authority to the systems in question was granted by the stupid management. It is their decision on what to do with the systems. All he can provide is advice. If the management wants to be boneheads, he makes them document the stupid decision in writing, and then implements it.

Protecting stupid management is even more stupid. The longer you cover for their incompetence, the longer they will be in that position. Instead learn to properly cover your ass and let the stupid management destroy itself.

you are the commanding officer of a nuclear silo. you get orders from your boss to initiate a launch, ending lives of hundreds of millions, and potentially ending the world. your boss is an idiot of the first order and screws up regularly. but, the order is compliant with the procedure. what do you do ?

You turn the key and launch the missiles. You do not have the information that the boss has, no matter how stupid the boss is. Thus what appears to be dumb or a screw-up might instead be the least-bad option when all the available information is present.

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034904)

You turn the key and launch the missiles. You do not have the information that the boss has, no matter how stupid the boss is. Thus what appears to be dumb or a screw-up might instead be the least-bad option when all the available information is present.

or it might be a screw up of your boss, who was known to be stupid. just like in the terry childs case and with the disclosure of hundreds of live passwords to public as 'evidence'.

Re:So have that juror explain to us (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034978)

And since you can't know which, you follow the orders. At least as long as you keep this in the nuclear scenario where there's no time to share information.

Passive Denial of Service is a Bad Precedent (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034350)

From this guy's discussion it sure sounds like the jury convicted Childs for literally doing nothing - as in not revealing the password when asked.
That seems completely out of line with the reason for "denial of service" laws in the first place - unauthorized access leading to various sorts of downtime.

Childs clearly had authorized access up until the point in which they decided to "transfer" him and it doesn't sound like he tried to access the systems afterwards.
He may have been an ego-maniacal dick about how he managed the systems when he was authorized, but being a dick is not a criminal offense.

I think a doctrine of calling inaction after authorized actions denial of service is the kind of thing that is so overbroad it could lead to all kinds of unfairness - a maintenance guy sees a leaky roof in a server room, gets transferred to another building and doesn't tell anyone about it and a week later the computers in that room get flooded, is he now criminally responsible for that denial of service?

Tricky (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034434)

The Jury would have had a much easier time deciding against Childs if being a grade A asshole were a felony...

Answering the wrong question (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034552)

The questions were, first, did the defendant know he caused a disruption or a denial of computer service. It was rather easy for us to answer, "Yes there was a denial of service."

They did not answer the question posed. They answered "Was there a denial of service?", not "Did the defendant knowingly cause a denial of service."

If the jury did not consider the issue of whether the denial of service was caused by the defendant or by the procedure (or lack thereof), that is a problem. TFA did not explicitly indicate the issue was covered or not, but it reads to me like it was not covered.

YANAL (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034554)

There was once a story on /. about a blog post called "You are not a lawyer [slashdot.org] ". That was a very good one about similarities and (more important) differences between IT and jurisprudence. The similarities are sometimes giving a perceiptive insight while the differences combined with half knowledge may lead to disastrous blunders (this works both ways: "a state attorney once argued about confiscating a router in the logical second a packets passing through and thereby doing an intercept (for which an order is difficult to obtain in germany) by confiscating something (much easier)").

Trying to second guess a jury based on press reports (written by reporters whon don't understand neither IT nor jurisprudence) is something, i try hard to stay safely away from.

CU, Martin

Re:YANAL (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034766)

The law is a twisted thing as is and lawyers get to pound it out of shape even further.

Add in a little blind respect for people like police and DAs and you have a recipe for disaster where people will willing accept that black is white and up is down.

Although "jury will lynch jerk" is pretty easy to predict. That only requires a crude understanding of human nature.

The same people that likely gave Terry grief in school probably did the same in the courtroom.

Cool, I can't wait to start suing. (0, Flamebait)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034696)

Since the service that was denied "was the ability to administer the routers and switches of the FiberWAN" I figure that anyone who keeps me from getting to work on time in the morning by driving stupidly, or even a police officer who stops me along the way I can have them brought up on "Denial of Service" charges and maybe even making a tidy profit. Also I think Jason Chilton is an idiot.

don't routers have reset switches? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32034814)

I really don't understand this. If he had been hit by a bus, who would they have sued?

Routers presumably have reset switches. Why would it take a competent new admin more than a few minutes per router to reset and reconfigure it? Or maybe an hour for a few bigger devices that required a complete reinstall?

Given that you can't trust that the ex-employee to have left backdoors anyway, why would you even want the old passwords?

Who's egotistical? (0)

JakiChan (141719) | more than 4 years ago | (#32034890)

This guy keeps making sure everyone knows he's a CCIE. I gotta wonder...is his ego any smaller than Childs? Unlikely. Extremely.

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