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UK MPs blame China for MOD data breach – media

Hackers reportedly accessed the personal information of multiple members of the British armed forces through a third-party payroll system

The UK suspects China of being behind a recent data hack involving the country’s Ministry of Defense, the BBC and Sky News reported on Tuesday.

According to the reports, the hack targeted the payroll system of the armed forces, which is managed by a third-party contractor. The system reportedly contained the names and bank details of current members of the Royal Navy, Army, and Air Force, and some veterans, as well as their personal addresses in some cases. It is unclear how many people’s details were accessed.

While the ministry has not made any official statements with regard to China’s involvement in the incident, several lawmakers pointed the finger at Beijing. Tobias Ellwood, a senior MP and former defense committee chair in the House of Commons, said the attack looks like the type that could have come from China.

“Targeting the names of the payroll system and service personnel’s bank details, this does point to China because it can be as part of a plan, a strategy to see who might be coerced,” he told the BBC’s Radio 4.

Iain Duncan Smith, an MP and former leader of the Conservative party, told Sky News that the data breach is “yet another example of why the UK Government must admit that China poses a systemic threat to the UK.”

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The ministry reportedly became aware of the data breach in recent days and immediately shut down the system. Sources within the ministry told the BBC that an investigation into the hack is underway.

Because the system was managed by an external organization, no operational data of the ministry was accessed, the reports claim. The ministry has been notifying those targeted, and said that salary payments this month will not be affected.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps will reportedly address the UK Parliament later on Tuesday to report on the data breach.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to claims of Beijing’s involvement in a statement, claiming that “the relevant remarks of UK politicians are absurd.”

“China firmly opposes and fights all forms of cyber-attacks. We also firmly reject using the cyber security issue politically to smear and vilify other countries,” spokesperson Lin Jian said.


READ MORE: New hacking allegations against China aren’t what they seem

This is not the first time the UK has attributed attacks on databases to Beijing. In March, London formally accused Chinese “state-affiliated actors” of being behind cyber-attacks on the UK Electoral Commission between August 2021 and October 2022, which accessed voter databases and other sensitive information. The UK government placed sanctions on two Chinese nationals and one company that it claimed were linked to a hacker group behind the attacks. China has been adamant that it had nothing to do with the hacks, slamming the UK’s accusations as an “outright political manipulation and malicious slander.”

 

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