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Iranian hackers planned attack on Boston Children’s Hospital last summer, FBI director says

The FBI is keeping an eye on threats from Iran and China even as Russia takes priority.
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Reagan Library, Feb. 27, 2022. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The FBI managed to detect and mitigate an attack by Iranian state-sponsored hackers against Boston’s Children’s Hospital last summer, FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed on Wednesday.

“Quick actions by everyone involved, especially at the hospital, protected both the network and the sick kids that were dependent on it,” Wray said at the Boston Conference on Cyber Security.

Wray called the incident one of the “most despicable cyberattacks” he’s seen, but he noted that the threat was hardly an isolated one. In 2021 the FBI saw ransomware attacks against 14 of the 16 services deemed critical infrastructure by the U.S. government, including hospitals. The FBI issued a warning last November that Iranian hackers were seeking data that could be used to hack U.S. companies.

The agency has been “laser-focused” on potential threats to critical infrastructure resulting from the United States’ support of Ukraine during an ongoing invasion of the nation by Russia. The United States has observed Russia “taking specific preparatory steps towards potential destructive attacks, both here and abroad,” Wray said. And the fallout of those attacks could get worse.

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“We’re watching for their cyber activities to become more destructive as the war keeps going poorly for them,” said Wray.

Wray noted that the United States isn’t alone in observing and learning from the war in Ukraine.

“We know that China is studying the Ukraine conflict intently,” said Wray. “They’re trying to figure out how to improve their own capabilities to deter or hurt us in connection with an assault on Taiwan.”

Despite its laser focus on cyberthreats from Russia, the FBI isn’t taking its eyes off of other nation-states and criminal cyberthreats.

“We got to hold the line on multiple fronts all at once,” said Wray. “We cannot let up on China or Iran or criminal syndicates while we’re focused on Russia.”

Russia declared war against Ukraine on Feb. 24. Before, during and after the military campaign began, the CyberScoop staff has been tracking the cyber dimensions of the conflict.

This story was featured in FedScoop Special Report: War in Ukraine

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