Gavin Newsom's superpowers charm passwords from rogue IT guy

Remember Terry Childs, the guy who changed the passwords on San Francisco's government IT network the other week? The Chronicle reports that "a team of code crackers brought in from Cisco Systems had been working around the clock to try to decipher Childs' codes, but with only marginal success." Childs has finally given up the passwords — on the condition that hunky future governor (just you wait!) Gavin Newsom come down to the Hall of Justice and get them personally, and then deliver them to the Cisco consultants, not to the city's IT managers. For those of you convinced that taking back the network should've been as simple as rebooting your Mac with a paper clip, read the full anecdote:

Infoworld has an insider report on the tech side of the story from another San Francisco IT staffer. The Chronicle report by Matier & Ross is more people-oriented:

A team of code crackers brought in from Cisco Systems had been working around the clock to try to decipher Childs' codes, but with only marginal success.

"It wasn't cheap and I just couldn't see us keep spending that kind of money," Newsom said.

Then, out of the blue, Childs' lawyer, Erin Crane, called the mayor's office Monday afternoon, offering a jailhouse meeting.

Childs, according to the lawyer, was ready to give up the codes - but only to the mayor, who had gone out of his way in his public comments not to portray Childs as some sort of monster.

Newsom didn't hesitate. Without asking the city attorney for an opinion or giving a heads up to police or the district attorney, he was at the Hall of Justice in half an hour.

With Crane by his side, Childs told Newsom about the computer system he'd set up and how all the current problems sprang from a series of misunderstandings.

Crane didn't let him go on for too long, and Childs got to the business at hand, asking for a pen.

He then wrote out a very long computer code.

"This better be right," Newsom said.

"It is," Childs assured him, but asked the mayor to deliver it in person to the Cisco specialists — not to the city's computer brass.

Newsom took the code to the city computer center and gave it to a Cisco techie, who found that it didn't work — prompting a call-back to Crane.

"He said you would be calling and you would be upset," the lawyer said. "He forgot to give you the protocols to go along with the code" — and she read the accompanying computer prompters to the mayor over the phone.

By Tuesday morning, the system was back in the hands of the city.

(Photo by AP/Eric Risburg)