Man convicted of 'hacktivist' attacks on Boston Children's Hospital

Security lock on computer data
A 32-year-old Massachusetts man was convicted by a federal jury for orchestrating disruptive computer attacks on Boston Children's Hospital and a residential treatment facility. (Getty/gintas77)

A 32-year-old Massachusetts man was convicted by a federal jury for orchestrating disruptive computer attacks on Boston Children's Hospital and a residential treatment facility.

Martin Gottesfeld, who identifies as part of the hacking group Anonymous, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to damage protected computers and one count of damaging protected computers. The Justice Department said Martin Gottesfeld conducted distributed denial of service attacks in 2014.

Gottesfeld was demanding a change in the way the hospital was handling a teenage patient who was the subject of a custody battle between her parents and Massachusetts.

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Gottesfeld and his supporters, who started a website called the FreeMartyG Campaign, maintain he is a human-rights activist who was seeking to help a family being wrongfully torn apart when the hospital called child protective services.

Officials said his attack on the nonprofit treatment facility called Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in March 2014 crippled its network for more than a week and cost $18,000 on response and mitigation efforts. 

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Then in April 2014, they said he launched a larger attack on the Boston Children's Hospital network. Customizing malicious software that he installed on 40,000 network routers controlled from his home computer, officials said he "directed so much hostile traffic at the Children's Hospital computer network that he not only knocked Boston Children's Hospital off the Internet, but knocked several other hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area off the Internet as well."

Boston Children's Hospital is one of the largest pediatric medical research centers in the U.S., with 395 beds and more than 1,100 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences and 11 on-staff members of the Institute of Medicine.

It records approximately 24,943 inpatient admissions each year and more than 557,620 visits. Officials said the attack disrupted the Children's Hospital network for two weeks and cost the hospital more than $300,000 and caused an additional estimated $300,000 loss in donations since the attack disabled the hospital’s fundraising portal.

RELATED: Healthcare lessons learned from 'hacktivist' attack

In February 2016, Gottesfeld and his wife made a distress call from a small boat off the coast of Cuba and they were rescued by a nearby Disney Cruise ship. They were returned to Miami and Gottesfeld was arrested. 

In a statement which appears to have been posted online by Gottesfeld on Thursday evening, Gottesfeld said he was offended the Justice Department focused only on the monetary damages to the hospital without addressing the situation of the patient which inspired the attack. He also pointed out the jury did not convict on the most critical charge of having any impact on treatment or diagnoses of patients that prosecutors were seeking.

"I'm not going to give up. I hope no one else gives up either. Let's keep being a loud, persistent voice for these kids because they need champions and they deserve champions," Gottesfeld said.

The charge of conspiracy could bring a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. The charge of damaging protected computers carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Gottesfeld will be sentenced in November. He said he plans to appeal.

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