Chinese Bad Actor Allegedly Hacked UK Ministry of Defense

( – A computer hacking operation has likely broken into the electronic system Britain uses for its military according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

On May 7th, Sunak said a “malign actor” had compromised the system, which contains personal and financial information belonging to members of the country’s armed forces.

Recent media reports indicate China is behind the digital break-in, though Britain’s government is not directly commenting on who they believe is responsible. The hackers apparently breached the payroll system that contains personal banking information for service members. This occurred after at least two prior attempts. The hack affects service members in the Royal Navy, Army, and Air Force.

Sunak told the media about the hacking and said he wanted people to know that the Ministry of Defence had already taken the system off the Internet and had alerted those whose personal information was taken. His office also said 10 Downing Street is investigating the third-party company that manages the payroll system.

Defence Minister Grant Shapps told members of parliament that he did not think any data was stolen (this contradicts media reports), but that the third-party contractor may have security holes that need to be plugged. The involvement of a foreign state could not be ruled out though, according to Shapps.

Beijing, predictably, denies involvement in the breach. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman took offense at the suggestion of his country’s involvement. Lin Jian said China is against cyber attacks and that suggesting Chinese involvement was an unwarranted smear. He called remarks from British politicians “absurd.”

This is not the first time the UK and China have had a word about electronic espionage. Whitehall claims Chinese hackers have broken into UK government systems at least twice in recent years.

The U.S. is also worried about Chinese hacking. News reports over the last seven months suggest Chinese hackers—believed to be doing Beijing’s bidding—have been “lurking” inside systems that control U.S. infrastructure for years.

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