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Iran Accused of Launching 'Despicable' Attack on Boston Children's Hospital

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FBI Director Christopher Wray accused the Iranian government Wednesday of being behind a planned cyberattack last year on Boston Children’s Hospital that was only averted through the bureau’s intelligence service and technical support.

Still, he called it one of the “most despicable cyberattcks I’ve ever seen,” according to WBTS, an NBC-owned television station in Boston.

“In the summer of 2021, hackers sponsored by the Iranian government tried to conduct one of the most despicable cyberattcks I’ve ever seen right here in Boston when they decided to go after Boston Children’s Hospital,” Wray said at a security conference at Boston College, WBTS reported.

“We got a report from one of our intelligence partners indicating Boston Children’s was about to be targeted, and understanding the urgency of the situation, the cyber squad in our Boston Field Office raced out to notify the hospital.”

The FBI was able to thwart the hackers before they did any damage to the hospital’s computer network, Wray said, according to CNN.

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“Our folks got the hospital’s team the information they needed to stop the danger right away. And we were able to help them ID and then mitigate the threat. And quick actions by everyone involved, especially at the hospital, protected both the network and the sick kids who depended on it,” he said, according to WBTS.

It is unclear why Iranian hackers targeted the children’s hospital.

However, if the attack had succeeded, it could have been disastrous since the hospital is a more than 400-bed facility and one of the premier pediatric centers in the U.S.

Wray warned that the U.S. needs to maintain focus on Iran and China, even though all eyes have shifted to Russia.

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Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Wray said, the FBI has been on “combat tempo” watching for potential Russian hacking threats to the U.S.

“We’ve seen the Russian government taking specific preparatory steps towards potential destructive [cyber]attacks, both here and abroad,” he said.

But Wray made it clear that Iran and China still pose serious security threats to the U.S. and that their hacking could target extremely important American institutions.

“We cannot let up on China or Iran or criminal syndicates while we’re focused on Russia,” Wray said.

The attempted attack on the hospital was one of several incidents last year that revealed to the FBI and other intelligence agencies that Iranian government-backed hackers were targeting American organizations with ties to health care and transportation, CNN reported.

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Boston Children’s Hospital had been targeted before. In 2014, it faced an attack by a man protesting the care of a teenager at the hospital involved in a custody dispute, WTBS reported.

The attack disrupted hospital operations for days and cost “tens of thousands of dollars,” according to The Associated Press. The attacker in that case was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019, the AP reported.

Wray said the hospital also faced an attack in 2019, according to WBTS, but details about that were unavailable.

U.S. officials and analysts have been warning for some time that there are links between foreign governments, like Iran, and criminal hacking groups. The 2021 incident Wray described seemed to prove that.

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Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.
Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.




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