Anonymous hacker gets 10 years in prison for DDoS attacks on children's hospitals

After a house search, hacker tried to flee to Cuba in a boat but needed help and was rescued by a Disney cruise ship.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor

A Massachusetts man was sentenced today to ten years in prison for launching DDoS attacks on behalf of the Anonymous hacker collective against US children's hospitals in 2014.

Martin Gottesfeld, 34, was also ordered to pay $443,000 in restitution for damages caused by his DDoS attacks, which he allegedly carried out with the help of a botnet made up of over 40,000 internet routers.

The attacks were part of #OpJustina, a campaign of the Anonymous hacker collective, which Gottesfeld backed and was a primary force.

The campaign aimed to raise public interest in the case of Justina Pelletier, a young girl who was separated from her parents after a diagnosis made by Boston Children's Hospital medical staff.

Although the girl was eventually reunited with her parents a year later after it was revealed that doctors misdiagnosed her condition, at the time of the events in 2014, Gottesfeld decided to support her parents' case by launching DDoS attacks against the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a Framingham-based mental health counseling clinic where Pelletier was held, but also against Boston Children's Hospital and other Longwood Medical Area hospitals.

The attacks, described as huge at the time, knocked the Boston Children's Hospital offline for days, and authorities said they disrupted the hospital's day-to-day operations and its research capabilities.

Authorities eventually tracked Gottesfeld by a video he uploaded on YouTube, according to court documents. They searched his house but did not arrest him in 2014.

Gottesfeld and his wife tried to flee to Cuba in a rented boat, but the trip didn't go as planned. They were rescued from the Gulf of Mexico by a Disney ship that answered his SOS call and brought back to the US.

He was arrested in 2016 and tried to protest his prosecutor's assignment by entering a hunger strike. The prosecutor assigned to the case was the same who went after Internet activist Aaron Swartz in 2013 and hacker Jonathan James in 2008, both of whom committed suicide following what families described as overly aggressive prosecution tactics.

Gottesfeld was found guilty in August 2018 of one count of conspiracy to damage protected computers and one count of damaging protected computers. He faced up to five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and another ten years for the count of damaging protected computers.

Dana Gottesfeld, the suspect's wife, told ZDNet in an email the sentence was "incredibly harsh and way more than people usually get for CFAA violations."

"It's also a really stark contrast that Marty got 10 years and Boston Children's Hospital, who literally abused a child, are protected from any kind of accountability," she added.

Mrs. Gottesfeld, who has been married to Mr. Gottesfeld for three years, says they plan to file an appeal. She also showed her dissatisfaction toward the court dismissing a 690-page affidavit listing the judge's alleged conflict of interests in the matter of this case.

A much more in-depth look at the Gottesfeld case is available in this reporter's previous coverage for Bleeping Computer.

Article updated shortly after publication with Mrs. Gottesfeld's comments.

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