FBI thwarted cyberattack against Boston Children’s Hospital

Greg Nash
The FBI seal is seen in this April 26, 2022, photo in Washington, D.C.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agency thwarted a cyberattack last summer that aimed to disrupt the network of the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Wray said hackers sponsored by the Iranian government were behind the attack, calling it “one of the most despicable cyberattacks” he’s ever seen. 

“We got a report from one of our intelligence partners indicating Boston Children’s was about to be targeted,” Wray said. “And, understanding the urgency of the situation, the cyber squad in our Boston field office raced to notify the hospital.”

He added that FBI agents were able to provide the hospital with the information it needed to identify and mitigate the threats. 

The director made the remarks on Wednesday at the annual Boston Conference on Cyber Security.

Wray warned that hospitals and other critical sectors should also be wary of ransomware, which is increasingly becoming a favorite tool for cybercriminals.

“If malicious cyber actors are going to purposefully cause destruction or are going to hold data and systems for ransom, they tend to hit us somewhere that’s going to hurt. That’s why we’ve increasingly seen cybercriminals using ransomware against U.S. critical infrastructure sectors,” Wray said. 

He added that in 2021, cybercriminals used ransomware against 14 of the 16 U.S. critical sectors, including health care.

“Ransomware gangs love to go after things we can’t do without,” Wray said.

The oil and gas industry has also been a target of ransomware criminals. Last year, Colonial Pipeline was hit by a disruptive ransomware attack, forcing it to shut down operations for nearly a week. The incident caused gas shortages in several states as fuel prices spiked.

Adam Flatley, director of threat intelligence at cyber defense firm Redacted, said these types of attacks are why the government and the private sector should prioritize on preparation and resilience to mitigate ransomware attacks, and also “bring tangible consequences to the threat actors.”

“Their ability to operate with impunity is what makes them powerful and to continue to harm innocents around the world. We’ve seen ransomware actors targeting multiple children’s hospitals over the past year,” Flatley said in a statement to The Hill. 

In his speech, Wray also mentioned that his agency is countering Chinese and Russian cyber threats. 

While Russia seems to focus its efforts in launching destructive cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, Chinese-backed hackers are in it more for economic and national security purposes, he said.

“China is clearly a very different threat than Russia,” Wray said. “The Chinese government is methodical, hacking in support of long-term economic goals.”

He added that “China operates on a scale Russia doesn’t come close to. They’ve got a bigger hacking program than all other major nations combined.”

Updated at 2:51 p.m.

Tags Boston Boston Children's Hospital China Christopher Wray Christopher Wray FBI

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