Network admin fined $1.5 million for doing his job?

A network administrator accused of sabotaging his employer’s computer system has already been sentenced to prison time — now he’s being ordered to pay a huge fine as well. His crime? According to him, it was following his employer’s policy.

Terry Childs, former IT employee of the City of San Fransisco, was recently sentenced to four years in prison because of an incident in which he blocked access to critical parts of the City’s network and refused to turn over the passwords. And now he’s received an additional punishment in the form of a $1.5 million dollar fine.

The long legal fight began in 2008, after Childs refused to give government officials the passwords to access the FiberWAN network he designed for the City. He was arrested and held in jail for 12 days until he finally gave the passwords to the mayor.

Childs claimed he was simply doing his job and following City policy. He said he was first asked for the passwords by people who weren’t authorized to have them. That’s why he didn’t comply with the requests until he spoke to the mayor directly, Childs said.

The City, on the other hand, portrayed Childs as a disgruntled employee who knew his job was in jeopardy and withheld the passwords to make himself indispensable.

A jury sided with the City and Childs was convicted of a felony charge of denying access to a computer system and sentenced to four years in prison. But the legal battle didn’t end there.

A judge has ordered Childs to pay $1.5 million in restitution, the San Fransisco Examiner reports. City officials claimed that was how much it cost them to try and break into their own network during the standoff and test for vulnerabilities after the incident.

Some critics argued that the amount was way too high. No hardware was damaged by Childs, and the vulnerability testing should have been done anyway. Some folks also blame the City for allowing a system in which only one person knows the passwords in the first place — after all, what would have happened if Childs had been hit by a bus?

What do you think? Is Childs being justly punished for sabotaging his employer’s computer network? Or was he just doing his job? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

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