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‘China’ hacks bank details of 250,000 British MOD workers: Beijing blamed as soldiers, veterans and officials are targeted in huge data breach | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker



By Meike Leonard and Mark Nicol and Miriam Kuepper

21:57 06 May 2024, updated 23:44 06 May 2024

  • MPs are set to be told about the massive data breach tomorrow 

The Chinese state has hacked the Ministry of Defence, it has been reported tonight.

It is understood that a quarter of a million people have been impacted by the breach which targeted service personnel. 

MPs are set to be told about the massive data breach – which targeted service personnel – tomorrow after it was reportedly discovered in recent days.

The government has not named the country involved, but Sky News understands it to be China.

The cyberattack was on a payroll system with current service personnel as well as a number of officials and veterans. Their names and bank details are amongst the information that has been exposed.

The Chinese state has hacked the Ministry of Defence, it has been reported tonight (file image)
Embarrassingly it comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping met with France’s President Emmanuel Macron  today ahead of an official state dinner

China stands accused of making two or three attempts to attack MoD employees.

The MoD are said to be hopeful that serving personnel will not be concerned about their safety. Those impacted by the data breach will be given advice and support tomorrow.

READ MORE: Macron is accused of ‘flattering tyrants’ and ‘rolling out the red carpet’ for Chinese President Xi Jinping as two leaders pose for photos with their wives at the Elysee Palace 

The contractor system is not connected to the main MoD computer systems and has been taken down with a review launched.

All salaries were paid at the last payday, with no issues expected at the next one at the end of this month, although there may be a slight delay in the payment of expenses in a small number of cases. 

The MoD is said to have worked on the issue intensively over the last 72 hours to figure out how much data was exposed during the hack. It is understood that investigations have not shown any data to have been taken so far. 

Up to 250,000 people could be impacted by the breach with their names and bank details amongst the information that has been compromised.

The identification of Special Forces soldiers – who are entitled to lifelong anonymity – has not been compromised according to defence sources.

The country’s President Xi Jinping is currently on a two-day state visit to France – his first visit to Europe since 2019.

Up to 250,000 people could be impacted by the breach with their names and bank details amongst the information that has been compromised
It comes less than two months after Chinese state-affiliated actors were blamed by the government for two ‘malicious’ cyberattack campaigns in the UK (file image)

Meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday, President Xi called for a ‘worldwide truce’ during the Olympic Games this summer.

The incident risks dissuading other countries with challenging relationships with China from sharing sensitive intelligence with the UK.

It comes less than two months after Chinese state-affiliated actors were blamed by the government for two ‘malicious’ cyberattack campaigns in the UK.

The two incidents involved an attack on the Electoral Commission in 2021 as well as targeted attacks against MPs sceptical of China.

In a speech made in the commons last month, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden confirmed that the Chinese ambassador would be summoned to ‘account for China’s conduct in these incidents’.

He also announced that the UK – alongside international partners including the US – would be issuing sanctions against the Chinese government.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: ‘So many serious questions for the Defence Secretary on this, especially from Forces personnel whose details were targeted.

‘Any such hostile action is utterly unacceptable. Parliament will expect a full Commons statement tomorrow.’

MailOnline has contacted the Ministry of Defence for comment.  

The cyber attacks that hit the UK

– March 2024

The UK and the United States accused China of a global campaign of “malicious” cyber attacks in an unprecedented joint operation to reveal Beijing’s espionage.

Britain publicly blamed China for targeting the Electoral Commission watchdog and for being behind a campaign of online “reconnaissance” aimed at the email accounts of MPs and peers.

The Electoral Commission attack was identified in October 2022, but the hackers had first been able to access the commission’s systems for more than a year, since August 2021.

– December 2023

A Foreign Office minister told the Commons that private conversations of high-profile politicians and civil servants were compromised by Russia’s principal security service during “sustained” attempts to interfere in UK politics.

A cyber influence campaign by a group known as Star Blizzard, “almost certainly” a subordinate of an FSB cyber unit, had “selectively leaked and amplified information” since 2015.

– July 2022

The British Army confirmed a “breach” of its Twitter and YouTube accounts. The channel featured videos on cyptocurrency and images of billionaire businessman Elon Musk.

The official Twitter account had retweeted a number of posts appearing to relate to NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

– July 2021

The UK accused the Chinese government of being behind “systematic cyber sabotage” following a hacking attack which affected a quarter of a million servers around the world. The attacks, which took place in early 2021, targeted Microsoft Exchange servers.

– April 2021

Britain accused Russia’s foreign intelligence service of being behind a major cyber attack on the West.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had assessed that it was “highly likely” the SVR was responsible for the so-called SolarWinds hack.

– July 2020

Britain, the United States and Canada accused Russian spies of targeting scientists seeking to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The three allies said hackers linked to Russian intelligence were seeking to steal the secrets of research bodies around the world, including in the UK.

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