Politics & News

Suspected Chinese Cyberattack Breaches UK Defense Ministry

Britain’s Ministry of Defense has been the target of a massive Chinese cyberattack, reported Sky News.

The breach revealed the details of armed forces personnel. MPs will be updated about the hack on Tuesday, but the British government will not name the country involved.

Accessing Data

The attack, which was attempted two or three times, targeted a third-party payroll system that included details of current service personnel and veterans. The details were largely names and bank details.

Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and former soldier, said that China “was probably looking at the financially vulnerable with a view that they may be coerced in exchange for cash.”

Investigations have not so far shown any data has been taken and the Ministry of Defense urged service personnel not to be concerned for their safety.

Action Plan

The British Ministry of Defense has been working over the last three days to understand the scale of the attack after it was discovered days ago.

According to BBC, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps will make a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday. He is expected to set out a “multi-point plan” which will include action to protect affected service personnel.

Espionage Activity

In recent years, Chinese espionage activity has been growing across Europe, raising the alarm of Western officials. In addition to the UK, China’s spying efforts have been spotted in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland.

The suspected hack comes less than two months after the government blamed China’s “state-affiliated actors” for two “malicious” cyberattack campaigns on Britain’s electoral watchdog and MPs critical of China between 2021 and 2022.

Government minister Mel Stride told Sky News that China is “an epoch-defining challenge” and “our eyes are wide open.” He didn’t confirm that China was behind the hack but said the UK needs to “get the balance right” when dealing with Beijing.

He explained: “By balance, I mean protecting our security. At the same time, I recognize and, of course, China is a very important economic player globally and, of course, big global challenges like climate change need to have China at the table, if we are to resolve those as well.”

Systemic Threat

British MPs have expressed their concern over the growing Chinese cyberattacks. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a Conservative MP and former soldier who has been sanctioned by China, said that the British government must admit that China poses “a systemic threat” to the UK.

He told Sky News: “No more pretense, it is a malign actor, supporting Russia with money and military equipment, working with Iran and North Korea in a new axis of totalitarian states.”

Ellwood, the Conservative MP, said: “We are learning the hard way how art warfare is rapidly changing as technology advances. Defending the digital terrain is now just as important as the physical – this is another reminder why we need to invest more in defense and security.”

Chinese Denial

China’s Foreign Ministry responded to reports about the cyberattack, saying it “firmly opposes and fights all forms of cyberattacks” and “rejects the use of this issue politically to smear other countries.”

When the UK sanctioned two individuals and a company linked to the Chinese state over cyberattack in March, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London said: “The so-called cyberattacks by China against the UK are completely fabricated and malicious slanders.”

China’s President Xi Jinping is currently on a tour to Europe, although he will not visit the UK. The visit comes amid rising trade tensions between China and EU countries.

The Chinese President landed Monday in Paris, where he met the French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Upon his arrival, a group of seven lawmakers targeted by suspected Chinese cyberattacks demanded a judicial investigation by the authorities.

Xi will visit Serbia on Wednesday and Hungary on Thursday, both of which have friendly relations with Beijing.

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