Experts: Hacker Group Could Have Targeted Boston Hospital Website

April 29, 2014 in News

The computer hacker group Anonymous is believed to have launched repeated cyberattacks against the Boston Children’s Hospital website in protest of a controversial child-custody case, the Boston Globe reports.

Background on Case

The child-custody case involves 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, who was brought by her family to Boston Children’s last year for treatment of severe intestinal problems and other issues. Physicians concluded that Pelletier’s symptoms were mainly psychiatric and said the family was pushing for unnecessary treatment.

The hospital filed medical abuse charges against the family, and a juvenile court judge granted the state permanent custody of Justina.

Attorneys for Justina’s parents — who insist their daughter has a mitochondrial problem, which would affect how cells produce energy — plan to appeal the ruling.

Details of the Cyberattacks

According to the Globe, there is no definitive evidence linking Anonymous to the cyberattacks that took place last week against Children’s, but experts say the attempt to cripple Internet operations with a barrage of traffic is a hallmark of the hacker group (Farrell/Wen, Boston Globe, 4/24).

In addition, Anonymous has publicly voiced interest in the case, posting a YouTube manifesto that threatens Boston Children’s and physician Alice Newton, who was the head of the hospital’s child abuse prevention unit and filed the charges in the case.

The video states, “To the Boston Children’s Hospital why do you employ people that clearly do not put patients first?” It adds, “We demand that you terminate Alice W. Newton from her employment or you to [sic] shall feel the full unbridled wrath of Anonymous. Test us and you shall fail” (WBUR, 4/24).

Anonymous also released the Internet address of Boston Children’s website and details about the type of computer servers the facility uses.

Although the website remains functional, some patients and medical staff during the cyberattack could not use their online accounts to check:

  • Appointments;
  • Test results; and
  • Other information.

Patient Data

Last week, hospital officials confirmed that no patient data have been compromised.

In a memo distributed to Boston Children’s employees, CEO Sandra Fenwick confirmed that the hospital had fallen victim to “multiple attacks, designed to bring the site down by overwhelming its capacity.” She added that the facility “received a direct, credible threat against our internal network, including staff and patient information,” which had been reported to police (Boston Globe, 4/24).

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