Six Lessons From Boston Children’s {Hacktivist} Attack

Although the cyber-attack took place four years ago, there have been some recent developments.


Most health system CIOs have heard about the 2014 attack on Boston Children’s Hospital by a member or members of the activist hacker group Anonymous. The hospital was forced to deal with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack as well as a spear phishing campaign. Yesterday, as part of the Harvard Medical School Clinical Informatics Lecture Series, the hospital’s senior vice president and CIO Daniel Nigrin, M.D., discussed six lessons learned from the attack.

Although the cyber-attack took place four years ago, there have been some recent developments. The attack was undertaken to protest the treatment of a teenager, Justina Pelletier, in a dispute over her diagnosis and custody between her parents and the hospital. In August 2018 Martin Gottesfeld, 32, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to damage protected computers and one count of damaging protected computers. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton scheduled sentencing for Nov. 14, 2018. Gottesfeld was charged in February 2016.

According the U.S. Department of Justice, Gottesfeld launched a massive DDOS attack against the computer network of the Boston Children’s Hospital. He customized malicious software that he installed on 40,000 network routers that he was then able to control from his home computer. After spending more than a week preparing his methods, on April 19, 2014, he unleashed a DDOS attack that directed so much hostile traffic at the Children’s Hospital computer network that he temporarily knocked Boston Children’s Hospital off the Internet.

In his Oct. 17 talk, Nigrin said cyber criminals still see healthcare as a soft target compared to other industries. “The bottom line is that in healthcare, we have not paid attention to cybersecurity,” he said. “In the years since this attack, we have seen ransomware attacks that have brought hospital systems to their knees. We have to pay more attention and invest more in terms of dollars and technical people, but it really does extend to entire organizations — educating people about what a phishing attack is, what a social engineering attack is. These need to be made a priority.”

  1. DDoS countermeasures are critical. No longer can healthcare organizations assume that a DDoS attacks are things that only occur against corporate entities, he said. “Prior to this event, I had never thought about the need to protect our organization against a DDoS attack,” he said. “I will submit that the vast majority of my CIO colleagues were in the same boat. And that was wrong. I think now we have gotten this understanding.”

2. Know what depends on the internet. Having a really detailed understanding of what systems and processes in your organization depend on internet access is critical, Nigrin stressed. You also mush have good mitigation strategies in place to know what to do if you lose internet access — whether it is because you have a network outage due to a technical issue or a malicious issue. “As healthcare has become more automated and dependent on technology, these things are crippling events. You have got to know how you are going to deal with it ahead of time. Figuring it out on the fly is not going to work.”

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Forget Hackers And Cyberwarfare, Rising Sea Levels Could Pose The Biggest Threat To The Internet

The results aren’t great. Within 15 years as many as 6,500 kilometers (4,000 miles) of buried fiber optic conduit could be submerged and 1,100 traffic hubs could be besieged by water.

Forget about Internet on Mars and Li-Fi, the Internet we rely on to run our hospitals, feed our cities, tweet celebrities, and watch animals do stupid things here on Earth could be at risk – and rising sea levels are to blame.

The Internet relies on a large physical network combining colossal data centers and thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cable buried underground. If this was to somehow falter (whether through cyberwarfare, space weather, or climate change), things could get bad pretty quick.

As a recent peer-reviewed study highlights, this infrastructure (the so-called “physical Internet”) is not currently built to withstand significant changes in sea level. Even more worryingly, we could see the consequences of this as soon as 2033.

Quite a bit of this framework is covered and takes after since quite a while ago settled privileges of way, ordinarily paralleling thruways and coastlines, Paul Barford, a University of Wisconsin-Madison teacher of software engineering and an expert on the “physical Internet”, said in an announcement.

“When it was fabricated 20-25 years back, no contemplation was given to environmental change.”

Barford introduced the investigation at a gathering of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Internet Society. what’s more, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers on July 16. While there has been look into rising ocean levels and urban foundations, for example, streets, lodging, and even whole islands, this has all the earmarks of being the principal evaluation analyzing the hazard that rising ocean levels posture to the Internet.


The results aren’t great. Within 15 years as many as 6,500 kilometers (4,000 miles) of buried fiber optic conduit could be submerged and 1,100 traffic hubs could be besieged by water.

The team came to this conclusion after overlaying Sea Level Rise Inundation data on the Internet Atlas, which allowed them to compare the forecasted sea level rises with a map detailing the Internet’s physical network.

The system has been intended to endure some water, yet it is just water-safe, not waterproof. This implies the determined level of flooding could represent a genuine hazard to the working of the Internet as we utilize it today. The tempest surges that took after Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina indicate the issues to come, Barford included.

The most exceedingly terrible influenced regions will be low-lying beach front urban areas. The analysts particularly named New York, Miami, and Seattle as high hazard. Be that as it may, if the system in these regions is harmed the impacts will “swell” over the Internet, Barford says. This is on the grounds that these urban areas are the place transoceanic marine links come aground and it is these transoceanic marine links that connection the US to whatever remains of the world, in any event from an online perspective.

Things being what they are, what would we be able to do? Solidifying the framework may defer the inescapable yet it won’t be compelling over the long haul, Barford clarified. This examination ought to be viewed as a “reminder”.

“The vast majority of the harm that will be done in the following 100 years will be done sooner than later,” cautioned Barford.

“That amazed us. The desire was that we’d have 50 years to get ready for it. We don’t have 50 years.”

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Australian government considers approach to cybersecurity

You talk to other countries and we have a chance here to lead the world.

The Australian government considers itself to be “world-leading” when it comes to cybersecurity, with Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor telling ZDNet that Australia has the opportunity to extend its global lead to create a thriving local industry.

“You talk to other countries and we have a chance here to lead the world, it’s very exciting not just so we can protect ourselves but so we can grow an industry,” he said on Wednesday.

“I don’t think anyone’s where they wanted to be, we’re all still facing risks, but I think we’re in a great position I think now to deal with these risks at a speed and with a level of collaboration that very few other countries have.”

To Taylor, it’s important to keep abreast of the threat landscape as it changes, noting also that it helps the country has a leader in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that understands technology.


“I think one of the reasons why we are arguably leading the world is that we have a prime minister who actually understands that, which is I think pretty much unique,” he told ZDNet. “For me personally that is a huge help because it means I can have a detailed discussion with him about Intel chips, and he understands.”

The newly minted cyber minister drew on his time as the minister overseeing digital transformation to discuss the current approach to cybersecurity the government has, commenting that it’s important to ensure departments and agencies aren’t further creating silos for dealing with threats.

“There is a risk  I’m acutely conscious of that, and I’m acutely conscious of that because I hear people say this to me all the time,” Taylor said. “We can’t let that happen.

“The key in cyber, like most areas, is speed and that means you’ve got to share information in a collaborative way.”

While the government has determined a need to share and created a handful of avenues to do so, it doesn’t exactly have a way to measure such information sharing.

“It’s very easy to see afterwards,” Taylor said in response to a question asking how to ensure cross-department collaboration. “This is something I’m adamant about and we do need to share. It doesn’t mean you have to share sources, but you have to share the information people have to act on.”

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Cyber Attacks Sideline Independent Media in Azerbaijan, Philippines

Across the ocean in the Philippines, independent media site Kodao is facing a powerful attack that has left it offline for a week, as of February 8.

Technical attacks ranging from 1:1 hacking incidents to full-on DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks have become an increasingly common tactic for silencing critical voices on the internet. Two examples of this threat have emerged in recent weeks in Azerbaijan and the Philippines.

Independent news site MeydanTV was one of those targeted in a wave of attacks on the websites, Facebook pages and email accounts of Azerbaijani dissidents and their supporters. Meydan TV, which has provided routine coverage of politics and social movements (despite clear and present risks), had its Facebook account hacked, resulting in the loss of years’ worth of posts and 100,000 followers.


The attacks appear to be part of a broad campaign to quell online dissent in Azerbaijan in the lead-up to presidential elections this October. Another such measure came with legal amendments in 2017 that enabled the government to block websites including MeydanTV and the independent news sites Azadliq, Radio Azatliq, Turan TV, and Azerbaijan Hour on “national security” grounds.

Across the ocean in the Philippines, independent media site Kodao is facing a powerful attack that has left it offline for a week, as of February 8.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the attack and reported that it was the result of a “code injection” against Kodao’s WordPress site that has prevented technicians and staff from logging in.

Referencing the Duterte government’s recent attempt to revoke the license of Rappler, another prominent independent news site in the Philippines, the NUJP said it “sees the attack on Kodao as part of the Duterte government’s efforts to silence critical media, as seen in the continuing attempt to shut down Rappler, threaten other news outfits, and other voices of dissent.”


Kuwaiti blogger sentenced to 31 years for ‘insulting’ Gulf countries

Although he is currently in exile in the UK, Kuwaiti citizen Abdullah al-Saleh was convicted in absentia by a Kuwaiti court of multiple charges of insulting the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in his online postings. He was sentenced to a cumulative total of 31 years in prison. Al-Saleh is a prominent blogger, YouTuber and social media voice, with more than 106,000 followers on Twitter. Among other political commentary, al-Saleh has openly criticized the Saudi-led diplomatic blockade against Qatar.

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