British Ministry of Defense victim of cyberattack on its payroll system, China suspected

British Ministry of Defense victim of cyberattack on its payroll system, China suspected
British Ministry of Defense victim of cyberattack on its payroll system, China suspected

The hack targeted the military’s salary payment system, in particular to gain access to their names and bank details.

The British Ministry of Defense was the target of a cyberattack targeting the military’s payroll system, the government said on Tuesday, triggering new accusations against China, which it firmly rejected. The data breach concerns the names and banking details of members of the armed forces, serving in the navy, land and air forces, and those of veterans, according to Sky News television. Personal addresses would also appear in this data.

According to several media outlets, the government suspects China of being behind the cyberattack. Representing the government on British media Tuesday morning, Labor Minister Mel Stride said he could not “affirm” that Beijing was responsible. “This is a hypothesis”, he added, however. While relations between London and Beijing have deteriorated considerably in recent years, the Chinese government represents a “historical challenge” And “our eyes are wide open when it comes to China”continued the minister.

Beijing reacted quickly and firmly. “The comments from the British politicians concerned are utter nonsense”said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian. “China has always firmly opposed and firmly suppressed all types of cyberattacks”he said.

British authorities discovered the cyberattack in recent days, according to several British media. The hackers would not have recovered any data from the system. “The Department of Defense acted very quickly to take the database offline” targeted by the attack, said Mel Stride, the Minister of Labor. The target is not, he clarified, a Ministry of Defense database but that of a third party.

“Historical challenge”

Defense Minister Grant Shapps will speak in Parliament today on the subject, but he is not expected to specifically name anyone responsible. On the other hand, he will warn of the dangers posed by cyberespionage, according to the BBC. According to MP Tobias Elwood, a former soldier and former chairman of a parliamentary defense committee, the attack has all the characteristics of a Chinese cyberattack. “Targeting staff names and bank details links to China”he said on the BBC. “It can be part of a plan, a strategy”he added.

Accusations of espionage and cyberespionage against Beijing have increased in recent years. At the end of March, London and Washington accused China of being behind several cyberattacks against their public institutions. British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden then denounced before Parliament “two malicious cyber actions” in 2020 and 2021, targeting parliamentarians critical of Beijing and against the United Kingdom Electoral Commission. “This is the latest in a series of hostile activities by China, which includes targeting democratic institutions and parliamentarians in the United Kingdom and other countries”he then said while London must organize legislative elections in a few months.

The attack on the Electoral Commission allowed access to servers containing copies of electoral registers with the data of 40 million voters, according to British media. Beijing has rejected these accusations, deeming them “totally unfounded”. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak then declared that the United Kingdom would “the necessary” to ensure their safety and protect themselves against “historical challenge” what does a China pose? “more and more assertive”.

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