The FBI thwarted a planned cyberattack on Boston Children's Hospital that was to have been carried out by hackers sponsored by the Iranian government, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday.
Wray, speaking at a Boston College cybersecurity conference, said the FBI acted on a tip from another intelligence agency last August and was able to stop the attack. It wasn't the first time the hospital has been targeted by attempted in this way, he said, as it faced cyberattacks from others in 2014 and 2019 as well.
On Aug. 3, the FBI said they went to Boston Children's Hospital to warn them of the threat and disseminated previously declassified information so they generally knew what was coming.
"In the summer of 2021, hackers sponsored by the Iranian government tried to conduct one of the most despicable cyberattcks I've ever seen right here in Boston when they decided to go after Boston Children's Hospital," Wray said. "We got a report from one of our intelligence partners indicating Boston Children's was about to be targeted, and understanding the urgency of the situation, the cyber squad in our Boston Field Office raced out to notify the hospital."
"Our folks got the hospital's team the information they needed to stop the danger right away. And we were able to help them ID and then mitigate the threat. And quick actions by everyone involved, especially at the hospital, protected both the network and the sick kids who depended on it."
The FBI said they also met with the hospital seven times over the next 10 days to help them plan for any attack and address their concerns. Ultimately, there was no disruptino to the hospital's operations.
Wray said the bureau and Boston Children’s Hospital had worked closely together after a hacktivist attacked the hospital’s computer network in 2014. Martin Gottesfeld launched a cyberattack at the hospital to protest the care of a teenager at the center of a high-profile custody battle and later was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The attack against the hospital and a treatment home cost the facilities tens of thousands of dollars and disrupted operations for days.
“Children’s and our Boston office already knew each other well — before the attack from Iran — and that made a difference,” he said.
Wray did not ascribe a particular motive to the planned attack on the hospital, but he noted that Iran and other countries have been hiring cyber mercenaries to conduct attacks on their behalf.
Boston Children's Hospital released a statement of its own on Wednesday, saying, "Thanks to the FBI and our Boston Children's Hospital staff working so closely together, we proactively thwarted the threat to our network."
The FBI director was in Boston to deliver the keynote address at the sixth annual Boston Conference on Cyber Security. The day-long conference is the result of a partnership between the FBI and the Masters in Cybersecurity Policy and Governance Program at Boston College's Woods College of Advancing Studies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.