Chinese hackers suspected in cyberattack on UK defense payroll system

Massive data breach exposes personal information of British military personnel.

Chinese hackers suspected in cyberattack on UK defense payroll system
AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski
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A major cyberattack has compromised the personal data of thousands of British military personnel, according to reports. The breach exposed bank details, home addresses, and other sensitive information of up to 272,000 soldiers, sailors, and air force members, including veterans.

The hack targeted a third-party payroll system used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), granting unauthorized access to the confidential data. While the British government has confirmed the breach and attributed it to a "malign actor," it has not officially named China as the culprit. However, Sky News reports indicate that Chinese state-sponsored hackers are believed to be behind the intrusion.

Addressing the issue on Tuesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged the hack and criticized China's authoritarian behavior.

"A malign actor has compromised the armed forces payment network," he stated, adding, "China is a country with fundamentally different values to ours that are acting in a way that is more authoritarian and assertive abroad."

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that the government could not rule out state involvement in the cyberattack but declined to provide further details citing national security concerns. "For reasons of national security, we can't release further details of the suspected cyber activity behind this incident," he said, confirming that the affected system was immediately taken offline upon discovery of the breach.

Some members of Parliament have speculated that the hack may have aimed to exploit financially vulnerable soldiers. Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood suggested that China "was probably looking at the financially vulnerable with a view that they may be coerced in exchange for cash."

The Chinese Embassy in London has vehemently denied any involvement, dismissing the allegations as "fabricated and malicious slander" and accusing the U.K. of spreading disinformation for political motives.

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