10 Year Jail Term for Boston Children’s Hospital Hacker

The hacker behind a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on Boston Children’s Hospital in 2014 has been handed a jail term of 10 years and must pay $443,000 in restitution.

Martin Gottesfeld, 34, of Somerville, MA, launched attacks on the Framingham, MA, Wayside Youth and Family Support Network and Boston Children’s Hospital in 2014 as a protest over the handling of a case of suspected child abuse.

In 2013, teenager Justina Pelletier was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital after a physician at Tufts Medical Center recommended she was transferred in order for her to see her longtime gastroenterologist. Justina suffered from mitochondrial disease; however, Boston Children’s Hospital believed Justina’s condition was psychological rather than physical.

Justina’s parents tried to get their daughter transferred back to Tufts Medical Center but the hospital believed the actions of the parents and interference in their daughter’s care amounted to medical abuse. In the subsequent custody case, the parents lost custody of their daughter to the state of Massachusetts. Justina spent the following 16 months in state custody.

Gottesfeld took issue with the treatment of Justina. Operating as a hacker under the banner of the hacking group Anonymous, Gottesfeld launched DDoS attacks on the medical facilities. An attack was launched on the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in March 2014, where Justina was a resident after her discharge from hospital. In April 2014, Gottesfeld attacked Boston Children’s Hospital. The attack caused significant disruption to day-to-day operations at the hospital over a period of two weeks.

According to the Department of Justice, “[Gottesfeld] unleashed a DDoS attack that 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.”

Prosecutors claim the attacks not only caused disruption to patient care at Boston Children’s Hospital, but also hampered its research capabilities, disrupted communications with other healthcare facilities, and resulted in a loss of around $300,000 in donations while its fundraising portal was disabled. The Wayside Youth and Family Support Network spent around $18,000 mitigating and responding to the DDoS attacks.

Gottesfeld was suspected of being behind the DDoS attacks and in October 2014, the FBI executed a warrant and seized Gottesfeld’s computer and hard drives. Gottesfeld was not charged at the time, but with charges pending, fled the country with his wife in February 2016. The pair got into trouble in a small boat off the coast of Cuba and sent out a distress signal. They were picked up by a passing Disney cruise ship and Gottesfeld was arrested by the FBI when the ship made port in Miami.

In August 2018, Gottesfeld was charged with two counts of conspiracy and two counts of causing damage to protected computers and was recently sentenced in Boston. Gottesfeld claimed he had no regrets over the attacks and said “I wish I could have done more.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney David D’Addio claimed the attacks put children’s lives at risk and suspected Gottesfeld would commit further attacks in the future when released from prison. “It is terrifying to contemplate what he will do with the next cause he adopts,” said D’Addio.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said Gottesfeld’s crimes were “contemptible, invidious and loathsome,” and warranted a long custodial sentence.

Gottesfeld, who has been in custody since February 2016, is planning to appeal.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.