Sinking feeling: Hacktivist rescued by Disney cruise ship convicted for DDoS attacks against health facilities

News by Bradley Barth

It was not a fairy-tale ending in court yesterday for a criminal hacktivist who had to be rescued by a Disney Cruise ship in 2016, after attempting to flee to Cuba to escape charges.

It was not a fairy-tale ending in court yesterday for a criminal hacktivist who had to be rescued by a Disney Cruise ship in 2016, after attempting to flee to Cuba to escape charges of attacking two health care providers.

Martin Gottesfeld, 32, of Somerville, Massachusetts, was convicted in his home state yesterday of one count of conspiracy to damage protected computers and one count of damaging protected computers, for launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Boston Children's Hospital and the Wayside Youth & Family Support Network, a health counseling and family support services provider in Framingham, Mass.

For the conspiracy charge, Gottesfeld faces a maximum of five years in prison, with three years of supervised release, and a fine of US$ 250,000 (£192,000) plus restitution. The charge of damaging protected computers carries a penalty of no greater than 10 years in prison with three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to US$ 250,000 (£192,000).

According to a press release from the Massachusetts US Attorney's Office, Gottesfeld in 2014 launched a DDoS assault against Wayside, disrupting the non-profit's network for a week and costing the organization US$ 18,000 (£13,843). Later that year, he would execute another attack against Boston Children's Hospital, using a botnet composed of roughly 40,000 routers. The blitz not only knocked his intended target offline, but also several more hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area. Boston Children's Hospital's network was disrupted for at least two weeks, resulting in approximately US$ 600,000 (£461,511) in repairs and lost donations.

As cyber investigators closed in on Gottesfeld, he fled with his wife by boat on 16 February, 2016. But when the vessel became stranded at sea, the couple placed a distress call for help. A Disney Cruise Line ship picked up the couple and dropped them off in Miami, where Gottesfeld was arrested.

DOJ officials say that Gottesfeld identified himself as a member of the hacking group Anonymous, and launched the attack on Boston Children's Hospital in protest of how the medical facility had handled a high-profile custody case.

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