On Wednesday, June 1, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that the Iranian government was responsible for the cyberattack on Boston Children’s Hospital last year. The hospital’s computer network was hacked in this attack, a violation against U.S. healthcare that has been increasingly frequent in recent years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the potential damage done to the hospital had been thwarted ahead of time; however, it remains significant that a ransomware attack, typically executed by individuals, had been commissioned by a foreign government.
As reported by 10 Boston, the FBI worked closely with the Boston Children’s Hospital following the attack to discuss establishing tighter protection and protocols in case something similar happens again. Focus on potential future attacks is representative of the increasing regularity of cyberattacks and informal methods of conflict between states.
Ransomware attacks are cyberattacks that lock and encrypt the victim’s data, which is then used to hold ransom, most often for a fee. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare has been a primary target for ransomware attacks, as the medical information encrypted in the attack solicits an urgent and lucrative response from its victims.
The use of ransomware as a means of cyber attacking the United States is representative of a larger trend of cyber warfare against the United States within current geopolitics. This has been most publicly apparent regarding Russian cyber-attacks in the United States. Russian infringement of U.S. cybersecurity has made it a priority of national security efforts, specifically the defense of critical U.S. infrastructure, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has closely and consistently observed within the United States Government.
According to CNN, Wray declared in a statement on Wednesday at Boston College that this attack on the Boston Children’s Hospital was “one of the most despicable cyberattacks I’ve seen.” The news organization also reported that it was likely done in the midst of nuclear talks between Iran and the United States, which had begun shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. The fact that re-entering nuclear deal talks with Iran elicited this response from the Iranian government could impact the future of these discussions; however, it is unlikely that the Biden administration will cease participation in nuclear deal discussions.
The Biden administration’s response to the Iranian government’s cyberattack on Boston Children’s Hospital represents the relentless will of the U.S. to pursue a nuclear deal despite the violation of U.S. sovereignty and the safety of the American people. However, the prospect of a restored nuclear deal is waning and will continue to do so as long as Iranian aggression violates peaceful relations between the two nations. This creates a difficult decision of prioritizing international cyber security or movement towards nuclear disarmament and neutrality, a situation that seems to have no possible opportunity for peace. It is also vital to note that the attack by the Iranian government targeted the most vulnerable American citizens, an action that reflects the constantly changing nature of warfare and diplomacy in modern global politics.