Government suspects “malicious actor” of cyber attack on Ministry of Defense

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Government suspects 'malicious actor' behind cyber attack on Ministry of Defense

A cyber attack targeted soldiers from the Ministry of Defense (Alamy)

3 minutes reading

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the government suspects a “malicious actor” was responsible for a cyber attack on a database containing the details of military service personnel.

A cyber attack was carried out on a payroll system employing current and former military personnel, with their names and banking details exposed.

Although Shapps said they would not release any further details at this stage “for national security reasons”, there are several reports that government sources suspect China is behind the hacking.

“I can confirm to the House of Representatives that we have indications that this is the suspected work of a malicious actor and we cannot rule out state involvement,” Shapps told the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.

“This incident is further evidence that Britain faces increasing and evolving threats and that, as I set out in my speech at Lancaster House in January, the world is becoming slightly more dangerous.

“Last month, the government therefore announced an increase in defense spending to counter these new threats, reaching 2.5 percent of GDP by the end of this decade.”

Shapps apologized to those affected by the cyber attack and said that while it was not the MoD’s own systems that had been hacked, but a system provided by an external contractor, there was “evidence of potential shortcomings” of this contractor that warranted an immediate security investigation of the contractor and its activities.

“Following this incident, I can also announce today that while this incident is completely unrelated to our own MOD networks, we are also reviewing all personnel data to ensure our people’s data is secure,” he continued.

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Earlier on Tuesday, a Number 10 spokesperson said that “we are clear that China is a state threat to our economic security”, with Britain having previously seen threatening behavior “which we will not stand for”.

Responding to Shapps’ statement, Labour’s shadow defense secretary John Healey welcomed the government’s plans to protect details of servicemen and women in the future, but criticized the way the hack was informed to the media before those affected were informed.

“My greatest concern is for the safety of the operating personnel and affected veterans, concerned about the risk to them and their families, as I first hear that the data is being hacked from the media and not from the Department of Defense,” said he.

“Our military puts their own safety at risk when they serve on the front lines, and the very last thing they should worry about is the security of their data at home.”

Healey added that since subcontractors were “known as the soft underbelly of security,” this latest hack would raise serious questions about how the Department of Defense manages its outsourced services.

The Labor MP also chose to name China as the perpetrator behind the hack, saying that if this were to be the case, “it would pose a very serious threat to our national security”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it “strongly combats and combats all forms of cyber attacks” and “politically rejects the use of this issue to defame other countries.”

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