Hacktivist Convicted for DDoS Attack Facing 15 Years in Jail

The hacktivist, Martin Gottesfeld, 32, who was responsible for the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on Boston’s Children’s Mercy Hospital in 2014 has been convicted by a jury in the U.S. District Court in Boston.  He was convicted on two counts: damaging protected computers and conspiracy to intentionally damage protected computers.

Gottesfeld, who is from Somerville, MA, carried out two DDoS attacks in March and April of 2014. His first victim was Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Framingham, MA. The DDoS attack disabled all its systems, which took the healthcare provider’s systems out of action for over a week. It cost $18,000 to resolve the DDoS attack.

Gottesfeld attacked Boston Children’s Hospital next where he used 40,000 malware-infected network routers for this much larger attack. He planned the attack for a week and executed it on April 19, 2014.

The attack was so massive that not only Boston’s Children Hospital was affected, but other hospitals located in the Longwood medical area. The 65,000 IP addresses that the hospital and other healthcare services in the vicinity used were prevented from accessing the Internet and could not be used for communication.

The disruption to Boston Children’s Hospital lasted two weeks and had an estimated cost of $300,000. The hospital also lost $300,000 worth of donations because the attack also took the hospital’s fundraising portal offline.

The DDoS attacks were carried out on behalf of the hacktivist group Anonymous in protest over the behavior of the hospital in a child custody case. The case attracted national media attention. The parents of teenager Justina Pelletier from Connecticut, lost custody of their daughter over allegations made by Children’s Mercy Hospital that they were medically abusing their daughter. Custody of Justina was awarded to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Justina had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease and was being treated at Boston’s New England Medical Center. She was later moved to Children’s Mercy Hospital where the doctors diagnosed her as having somatoform disorder. Justina’s parents did not agree with the diagnosis and tried to get the hospital to discharge their daughter. The hospital declined and in the legal battle that followed, the parents lost custody of Justina.

Federal law enforcement identified Gottesfeld as a suspect for the DDoS attacks and his home was searched in October 2014. They found and seized a number of computers, servers and hard drives but did not charge Gottesfeld at the time.

In February 2016, Gottesfeld was located. He had got into difficulty in a small sailing boat off the coast of Cuba and was rescued by a passing Disney cruise ship. When the cruise ship dropped him off in Miami the FBI were waiting and he was arrested.

Now convicted on both counts, Gottesfeld awaits sentencing which has been scheduled for November 14, 2018. He faces a maximum fine of up to $500,000, excluding restitution. He also faces up to 15 years imprisonment –  A maximum of 10 years for criminal damage and up to 5 years for the conspiracy charge. When his sentences are served he will be placed on supervised release for 3 years.