7 May 2024

MoD data breach: China suspected of UK armed forces payroll hack

7:23 pm on 7 May 2024

By Henry Zeffman & Gordon Corera, BBC News

Britain's Secretary of Defense Grant Shapps speaks during a join press conference with Polish Defence Minister after their meeting on a military training compound next to Orzysz, North-Eastern Poland, on March 13, 2024. Britain's Secretary of Defense Grant Shapps visits the NATO-organized Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise in Poland. (Photo by Wojtek Radwanski / AFP)

UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps. Photo: AFP / WOJTEK RADWANSKI

The government suspects China was behind the hack of an armed forces payroll system, the BBC understands.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will not identify a specific culprit when he addresses MPs on Tuesday (local time), but was expected to warn of the dangers posed by cyber espionage from hostile states.

The system used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) includes names and bank details of armed forces personnel.

In a very small number of cases, the data may include personal addresses.

The system was managed by an external contractor.

The government became aware of the data breach in recent days, and had not found evidence hackers removed data from the system but was acting as if they did.

Sources have told BBC News the investigation into who was behind the breach, which would be seen as embarrassing for the MoD, was at an early stage.

It can take months, sometimes years, to gather enough evidence to publicly accuse so China was unlikely to be officially named today.

However, that did seem to be where suspicions were pointing towards, especially in light of Beijing's track record of targeting these kind of data sets.

Service people affected by the hack will receive further information from the government about the breach and would be told any concerns were more about fraud risks rather than personal safety.


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