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Oops - SF prosecutors put city passwords on public record

Cunning plan

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San Francisco prosecutors have put the city's network at further risk by placing access passwords and usernames on the public record as part of their case against Terry Childs, the sysadmin alleged to have hijacked the city's wide area network.

A list of 150 usernames and passwords of city officials was submitted to court as an exhibit last week. Childs, 43, was arrested on 12 July on charges of tampering with the city's FiberWAN network. He allegedly changed passwords and refused to hand them over to administrators, leaving city bosses locked out.

The impasse was broken when Childs agree to hand over the login credentials to city Mayor Gavin Newsom, during a meeting between the two last week. Despite this, he remains in jail, with bail set at $5 million.

The list of passwords and usernames for access to the city's VPN networks was reportedly recovered from Child's machine and submitted in court documents in a bid to bolster the argument against a reduction of Childs' bail. The office of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris claims Childs' possession of these passwords demonstrated the continuing threat he poses to its networks. Prosecutors argue that Childs could use the passwords to impersonate legitimate users.

Infoworld quotes unnamed sources suggesting that a second password in needed to obtain access to the city's network. Even so, disclosing first stage passwords is still bad security practice. Infoworld adds that many of the passwords are the same as VPN log-in identities or "extremely easy to guess".

After initially declining to comment, a spokeswoman for the DA's office said that "the court files have been amended". ®

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