US authorities have officially charged Martin Gottesfeld, 32, of Somerville, Massachusetts, for launching DDoS attacks against Boston Children’s Hospital and the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a mental illness treatment facility in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Gottesfeld was a key figure, according to authorities, and the main person behind these two DDoS attacks, which he later justified as payback for the treatment of Justina Pelletier by Boston Children’s Hospital staff.
The hacker detailed all the reasons for the attacks in an op-ed for The Huffington Post last month, revealing he decided to attack the hospital after he discovered that medical staff tried to take Justina away from her parents, thinking she was the subject of physical abuse from her family, but in fact had misdiagnosed her disease, and actually made it worse.
Gottesfeld tried to flee the US for Cuba
Gottesfeld and other members of the Anonymous collective decided to start a cyber-war against Boston Children’s Hospital, and later attacked other medical institutions, which in their eyes, provided incorrect medical treatment to teens suffering from mental diseases.
The DDoS attacks against the two medical institutions named in the official charges took place in October 2014, and caused damges of $618,000 combined.
Following the incidents, FBI tracked down Gottesfeld and questioned him in late 2015. Despite being told he was under an official investigation, Gottesfeld and his wife decided to leave the country by boat, sailing from Florida for the coast of Cuba.
Weather conditions strayed the boat off course, and the two called for help. A Disney cruise ship picked up their distress signal and rescued the two, leaving them under the custody of an FBI agent in Bahamas in February 2016. He was officially arrested a few days later.
Gottesfeld case handled by Aaron Swartz’ prosecutor
According to the Washington Post, authorities filed official charges against Gottesfeld this week.
To Gottesfeld’s horror, the official leading the prosecution is US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the same prosecutor that went after Internet activist Aaron Swartz in 2013 and hacker Jonathan James in 2008. Both suspects took their lives while under investigation, and Swartz’s family blamed Ortiz for her aggressive style and over-criminalization of Swartz’s actions.
“The fact that Ortiz’s office indicted on debate day, and without a press release, shows they are aware of the unconscionable human rights violations they are attempting to sweep under the rug and the precedence of impunity that would be even more firmly established,” Gottesfeld wrote in an email to the Washington Times. “This indictment, and the manner in which it was unsealed, were cowardly acts.”
Since October 3, the hacker has been on a hunger strike to protest the wrongful death of Aaron Swartz, and according to reports, has already lost 8 pounds (3.6 Kgs).
Authorities charged Gottesfeld with one count each of computer hacking and conspiracy related to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. He faces up to five years in prison for each.