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Healthcare Cyberattack Suspect Arrested After Being Rescued at Sea

A suspected hacktivist has been arrested after being rescued at sea off the coast of Cuba. Martin Gottesfeld, 31, from Somerville, Mass., is suspected of orchestrating two DDoS attacks on the computer network of a hospital in Boston last year, understood to the be Boston Children’s Hospital.

Gottesfeld, who was under investigation for the cyberattacks, is believed to have fled Massachusetts recently to escape arrest. His home was searched by the FBI in October 2014 in connection with the distributed denial of service attack on the Boston Children’s hospital that occurred in April 2014.

Somerville Police Department had recently been alerted to the disappearance of Gottesfeld and his wife after reports were received by concerned relatives and friends that the pair had not been seen for several weeks. Last week the police department visited Gottesfeld’s apartment to conduct a well-being check, but no one was home.

Just a few days after the visit Gottesfeld turned up, although in a rather unusual place. He and his wife were found off the coast of Cuba in a small boat. They had issued a distress call after they experienced difficulty and were rescued at sea by a passing Disney cruise ship.

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The FBI was notified that two individuals had been rescued, and when the cruise ship next came to port in Miami on February 17, Gottesfeld was arrested. Gottesfeld is alleged to have been trying to flee the United States and make it to Cuba to escape arrest.

The cyberattack on the Children’s hospital in Boston was conducted in response to a child custody case. The hospital became involved in the custody battle of Justina Pelletier, who had been receiving treatment for mitochondrial disease at Boston’s New England Medical Center. Pelletier was transferred to Boston Children’s hospital where she received a different diagnosis: Somatoform disorder. The parents disagreed with the diagnosis and wanted their daughter discharged, but the hospital refused to release her and in the ongoing legal battle, Pelletier’s parents ended up losing custody of their daughter to the state of Massachusetts. Pelletier has since been returned to the custody of her parents.

The case attracted a considerable amount of media attention, and the hacktivist group Anonymous became involved. A video was posted on YouTube in the name of the hacking group claiming that action would be taken against the hospital in retaliation for the treatment of the teenage patient. The video said Anonymous “will punish all those held accountable and will not relent until [Patient A] is free.” The video was reportedly uploaded by Gottesfeld.

A few days later, the hospital was subjected to a series of DDoS attacks that disrupted its network for several days and took its website out of service. Responding to the attack on its website and network is reported to have cost the hospital approximately $300,000. Gottesfeld is alleged to have orchestrated at least two of the attacks.

If convicted of the offenses, Gottesfeld faces up to 15 years in jail, 3 years on supervised release, and a maximum fine of $500,000.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.