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by Sofia Villegas
07 May 2024
China suspected of hacking UK armed forces database

China could be behind attack on Ministry of Defence payroll system | Alamy

China suspected of hacking UK armed forces database

The UK Government suspects China is responsible for the hack of an armed forces database, the BBC has reported.

A payroll system used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) suffered a significant data breach yesterday.

The incident saw hackers access personal information belonging to British military personnel. Details breached included names, bank details and possibly some personal addresses of current and past armed forces members.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps will address MPs later today to set out a "multi-point plan to support and protect personnel" and highlight the threats posed by cyber espionage from hostile states.

However, he is not expected to name the country responsible for the attack.

Conservative MPs have raised concerns about the cyber threat posed by China.

Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News: "This is yet another example of why the UK Government must admit that China poses a systemic threat to the UK and change the integrated review to reflect that.

"No more pretence, it is a malign actor, supporting Russia with money and military equipment, working with Iran and North Korea in a new axis of totalitarian states."

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lin Jian has said the accusations are “absurd”.

"China opposes all forms of cyber attacks, and the use of this issue to smear and vilify other countries," he added. 

The MoD first discovered the breach early last week, yet initial investigations have found no evidence that data has been removed.

The third-party system was operated by a contractor and has now been taken offline.

The attack comes as tensions are high between the UK and China over a string of alleged cyber espionage incidents.

In March, the UK and the US, launched an operation to tackle Beijing’s espionage, accusing China of a global campaign of “malicious” cyber-attacks. The UK Government blamed Beijing for the 2021 hack targeted at the Electoral Commission.

The incident also comes on the back of an updated version of the UK Government’s long-term defence strategy, which said the use of "commercial spyware, ransomware and offensive cyber capabilities by state and non-state actors has proliferated".

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