A member of the Anonymous hacker collective was found guilty this week in a trial for a series of cyber-attacks the man had conducted in 2014, including some aimed at children’s hospitals.
The hacker —Martin Gottesfeld, 32, of Sommerville, Massachusetts— was one of the main driving forces behind the #OpJustina Anonymous campaign.
Gottesfeld identified himself as a member of the hacking group Anonymous, and launched the attacks on behalf of Anonymous, demanding change in the way the Boston Children’s Hospital was handling a teenage patient (discharged months earlier), who was the subject of a custody battle between her parents and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The controversial case of Justina Pelletier
According to reports in local US media, the staff at the Boston Children’s Hospital had taken Justina from her parents after finding bruises on her body and thinking she was a victim of parental abuse.
During the ensuing legal battle, in which Child Services got involved, the child was separated from her parents and sent to Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a nonprofit, Framingham-based residential treatment facility that provides a range of mental health counseling and family support services to children, young adults, and families in Massachusetts.
The girl was eventually reunited with her family a year later, in 2014, after it was discovered that Boston Children’s Hospital doctors and staff had misdiagnosed Justina, who was suffering from a mitochondrial disease, which caused the marks on her body, and not because of physical abuse as initially thought.
Gottesfeld participated in #OpJustina
But before the custody battle clarified, Gottesfeld and other Anonymous hackers decided to take matters into their own hands by starting #OpJustina and launching cyber-attacks against the Wayside facility in March 2014, and the Boston Children’s Hospital in April, the same year.
This campaign involved the publishing of a #OpJustina manifesto on Pastebin and a video on YouTube, calling for cyber-attacks against the Boston Children’s Hospital.
Anonymous members, Gottesfeld included, followed suite on their threats. DDoS attacks crippled Wayside’s network for a week, causing $18,000 in damages, but they did more damage to the Boston Children’s Hospital.
US law enforcement says Gottesfeld was behind DDoS attacks against the Boston hospital on April 19, 2014, when he used a botnet of over 40,000 routers to knock the hospital off the Internet.
The attack was so powerful that it not only knocked the Boston Children’s Hospital offline but also nearby hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area.
Authorities said the DDoS attack disrupted the Boston hospital’s day-to-day operations, as well as its research capabilities. The attack caused damages that took more than $300,000 to repair, but also caused revenue losses of around $300,000 due to lost donations after the hospital’s fundraising portal was also taken offline. The hospital needed around two weeks to fully come back online.