A massive breach of payroll data by a “malicious actor” has revealed details about military personnel, the UK says

LONDON– The names and bank details of thousands of serving British soldiers, sailors and air force personnel were exposed in a data breach by a “malicious actor” who may have received government aid, defense officials said on Tuesday.

The Defense Department said the breach occurred in a third-party payroll system that stored the banking information of up to 272,000 active military personnel Veterans. In some cases, addresses may also have been disclosed.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said officials had “immediately taken the system offline” and launched an investigation into the breach and possible failings by contractor SSCL, which describes itself as the “largest provider of critical business support services to the government”.

“We cannot rule out government involvement,” Shapps told MPs in the House of Commons, although he said the government did not yet have evidence to support that conclusion.

Shapps did not confirm reports from Sky News and the BBC that Chinese hackers were suspected of carrying out the cyberattack.

“For national security reasons, we cannot release further details of the suspected cyber activity behind this incident,” he said.

Labor defense spokesman John Healey questioned why “the media was clearly informed about this”. China “was behind” the attack when the government was unwilling to say so.

When asked about the reports, China’s Foreign Ministry said it opposed all forms of cyberattacks and opposed “deliberately using cybersecurity issues to defame other countries for political purposes.”

SSCL was founded as a joint venture between the UK government and a private technology company. The government sold its final 25% stake in the company last year. SSCL customers also include the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice.

In March, Britain and the United States claimed that hackers linked to the Chinese government had targeted U.S. officials, journalists, businesses, pro-democracy activists and the United Kingdom Choice Watchdog in a campaign of “malicious” cyberattacks. The two countries imposed sanctions on several people and the US filed charges against seven suspected hackers, all believed to be based in China.

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