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Sunak Condemns China’s ‘Authoritarian’ Actions Following MoD Cyberattack Exposing Armed Forces Data

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Rishi Sunak has voiced criticism against China, describing the country as 'authoritarian and assertive,' following a hack on a Ministry of Defence payroll system. According to Sky News, the cyber-attack, attributed to the Chinese government, compromised the personal and financial information of active military members and some veterans, including their names and banking details.

Political journalist Alix Culbertson

Tuesday, May 7, 2024, 2:

Rishi Sunak has commented that Beijing's behavior is increasingly authoritarian and assertive internationally, following a Sky News report that disclosed a hacking incident by China targeting the Ministry of Defence.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister responded for the first time regarding the significant data breach following Sky News' Monday night report, which identified China as the culprit behind the hacking of the military's third-party payroll service.

He declined to specifically mention China, but he indicated that a "hostile entity has breached the military's payment system."

"He outlined a firm policy on China, indicating the necessity to utilize our capabilities to shield ourselves from the threats posed by China and other nations," he added.

"This nation holds core beliefs that diverge significantly from our own, exhibiting behaviors internationally that are increasingly authoritarian and aggressive."

Mr. Sunak assured the public that the Ministry of Defense has successfully dismantled the network, disconnected it, and is "ensuring that those impacted are receiving the proper support."

The hack led to the exposure of names and banking information of active members of the army, Royal Navy, and RAF, as well as some veterans.

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Discover more: Is it possible for the UK to benefit from both scenarios following the cyber intrusion at China's Ministry of Defense?

China described the allegations as "entirely concocted and spiteful libels."

A representative from the Chinese embassy in London refuted claims that China was involved in a Ministry of Defence hack, stating that responses to these allegations had been issued on March 25 and March 27.

He charged that the UK was making cyber security a political issue and asserted that there was no concrete proof that China had hacked the Ministry of Defence.

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"China has no interest in interfering with the domestic matters of the UK."

The spokesperson stated: "I must emphasize once again that the alleged cyber attacks from China on the UK are entirely unfounded and are harmful falsehoods.

We vehemently reject these claims. China consistently combats all types of cyber attacks in accordance with legal standards. It is not the policy of China to promote, back, or tolerate cyber attacks.

"We stand against turning cyber security matters into political issues and unfairly maligning nations without concrete proof."

"China lacks both the desire and the necessity to interfere in the domestic matters of the UK."

The assault targeted an independent contractor's network, which is separate from the primary Ministry of Defense (MoD) computing systems. This network has since been deactivated and an investigation initiated.

This month, all wages will be disbursed, and the Ministry of Defense assures all active members that their security is a priority, with guidance and assistance readily available to the staff.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps is scheduled to address the Commons on the matter later today.

Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and ex-military man, expressed to Sky News that China "likely targets those who are financially struggling, considering they might be manipulated with monetary incentives."

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

China is emerging victorious in the conflict

Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who faces sanctions from China, informed Sky News, "China is responsible for this."

"The hesitation, it seems, stems from the fear that upsetting China could lead to China destroying the business."

Labour's financial spokesperson Rachel Reeves expressed significant concern over the hack, stating that it raised serious questions for the government to address.

Luke de Pulford, who leads the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, stated that while Beijing has launched numerous cyber attacks against the UK, Britain has responded just once by imposing sanctions on the companies involved in these attacks instead of targeting the Chinese government directly.

He also mentioned that FBI Director Christopher Wray described the extent of Beijing's cyber espionage efforts as surpassing the combined efforts of all major rivals.

This isn't the first instance of a cyber attack from China

The breach might prompt concerns over whether nations that have tense ties with China will be willing to exchange sensitive information with the UK.

The assault occurred just under two months following accusations by the government against "state-affiliated actors", purportedly operating for China, for conducting two "malicious" cyber attack operations in the UK.

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