FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that the FBI prevented a cyberattack on the Boston Children's Hospital by Iranian-backed hackers. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
June 1 (UPI) -- FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday said the agency was able to thwart a cyberattack by Iranian government-backed hackers against Boston Children's Hospital last summer.
Speaking at Boston College's annual conference on cybersecurity, Wray described the attempted hack as "one of the most despicable cyberattacks I've ever seen," noting that the FBI's prior relationship with the hospital helped the agency prevent the attack.
"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 reached out to the hospital. Our folks got the hospital team the information they needed to stop the danger," Wray said.
Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston Field Office, said the hack was thwarted before it was clear what the hackers' ultimate goal with the hospital network was.
"There was no ransomware deployed and we were able to work with [the hospital] ahead of time to mitigate any of the other potential associated threats to the network," Bonavolonta said.
Wray said that the FBI had established a partnership with the hospital in response to a 2014 cyberattack that allowed the agency to quickly neutralize the threat.
"We rely on companies to work with us ... the way Boston Children's Hospital did," he said.
Both Wray and Bonavolonta also warned about the threat of future cyberattacks from foreign governments.
"Last year, across the United States, the FBI saw an unprecedented increase in malicious cyber activity," Bonavolonta said.
Data from threat intelligence firm Recorded Future showed there were 134 publicly reported ransomware incidents involving healthcare organizations in 2021, up from 106 in 2020.
Amid a threat of increased cyber threats from Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, Wray said the FBI has been on a "combat tempo" with a 24/7 command post to scope out such attacks.
"We've seen the Russian government taking specific preparatory steps towards potential destructive attacks, both here and abroad," he said.