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China Accused of Hacking UK Ministry of Defence: MPs to Address Security Breach Targeting Service Personnel

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Sky News has discovered that China infiltrated the Ministry of Defence's computer systems. Later today, members of parliament will be briefed on a significant data breach that targeted military personnel.

Assistant Political Editor @SamCoatesSky

Tuesday, May 7, 2024, 9:

Sky News has learned that the Chinese government is responsible for a cyberattack on the Ministry of Defence.

Today, Members of Parliament will be informed about a significant data breach at the Ministry of Defence, affecting military personnel.

The authorities have not disclosed the nation implicated, though Sky News believes it to be China.

The Chinese government is alleged to have made two or three attempts to hack into the systems of Ministry of Defense staff, including various personnel.

The cyberattack targeted a payroll system containing information from active duty members and some veterans. Primarily, names and banking information were compromised.

Salaries for this month will be disbursed in full.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated its strong opposition to and active combat against all kinds of cyber attacks, emphasizing that it disapproves of politicizing the matter to tarnish the reputation of other nations.

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Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and ex-military member, expressed to Sky News that China is likely targeting those in financial distress, considering they might be susceptible to bribery.

Today in the Commons, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps is scheduled to deliver a statement, as per the BBC, detailing a comprehensive strategy aimed at safeguarding service members who have been impacted.

The Ministry of Defense is optimistic that its serving members will remain confident in their security. They will receive guidance and assistance.

The subcontractor's network, which operates independently from the primary Ministry of Defense systems, has been shut down and is currently under investigation.

Explore further: Beijing represents a 'persistent' risk to Western cybersecurity, with efforts aimed at destabilizing our democratic institutions.

The Ministry of Defense has rapidly been assessing the extent of the cyberattack since its detection a few days ago, focusing intensely on this task over the past three days.

Preliminary inquiries indicate that there is no evidence of data theft at this stage.

This might lead to concerns about whether nations that have difficult interactions with China will be willing to exchange confidential information with the UK.

Less than two months ago, the UK government accused actors connected to the Chinese state of carrying out two harmful cyberattack operations.

On Tuesday morning, speaking to Sky News, government minister Mel Stride described China as "an epoch-defining challenge," emphasizing that "our eyes are wide open," referencing the 2021 Integrated Review of the UK's national security and international policy.

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He did not verify whether China was responsible for the MoD cyberattack but emphasized that the UK must find a proper equilibrium in its dealings with Beijing.

Mr. Stride emphasized the importance of security measures, stating, "By balance, I am referring to the safeguarding of our security." He acknowledged the significant role China plays in the global economy and stressed the necessity of China's involvement in addressing major worldwide issues such as climate change.

During a March address in the House of Commons, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden disclosed two prior incidents: a 2021 cyber assault on the Electoral Commission, which manages election oversight and political financing, and targeted cyber attacks on Members of Parliament critical of China.

John Healey, the shadow defence secretary for the Labour Party, emphasized that the defence secretary must address numerous critical inquiries, particularly from military personnel whose information was compromised.

He stated: "Such aggressive behavior is completely intolerable.

"Tomorrow, the full House of Commons anticipates a comprehensive statement from Parliament."

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory MP and ex-military man facing sanctions from China, expressed to Sky News: “This incident further demonstrates why the UK government needs to acknowledge China as a systemic risk to our nation and update the integrated review accordingly."

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"Let's be clear, this entity is a harmful agent, financially and militarily backing Russia, and collaborating with Iran and North Korea to form a new coalition of authoritarian regimes."

Mr. Ellwood noted, "We're finding out through tough lessons that the nature of art warfare is evolving quickly with technological progress."

"Protecting our digital spaces has become as crucial as safeguarding our physical environments—this underscores the necessity of increasing investment in defense and security measures."

The focus on the Ministry of Defense's payroll and banking information likely centered on identifying financially weak individuals who could be pressured into exchanging sensitive information for money.

"If this kind of cyberattack is occurring in the UK, it's likely that other NATO nations are also at risk of being targeted."

Stay updated on the most recent developments both within the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

China's leader, Xi Jinping, is presently traveling through Europe, but he does not have plans to stop in the UK.

He was in Paris on Monday and plans to accompany French President Emmanuel Macron to the Pyrenees on Tuesday.

Subsequently, he is scheduled to travel to Serbia on Wednesday and Hungary on Thursday, two nations that maintain cordial relations with Beijing.

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