Details of UK military personnel exposed in huge payroll data breach

LONDON (AP) — The names and bank details of thousands of serving British soldiers, sailors and air force members have been exposed in a data breach at a payroll system used by the U.K. defense ministry, officials said Tuesday.

The breach occurred at a third-party payroll system holding bank details of all serving armed forces personnel and some veterans. In a few cases, addresses may also have been exposed.

Cabinet minister Mel Stride said authorities acted swiftly to take the database offline. So far, investigators have found no evidence that data have been removed.

The Ministry of Defense said Defense Secretary Grant Shapps would make a statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon “setting out the multi-point plan to support and protect personnel.”

The ministry would not comment on reports by Sky News and the BBC that Chinese hackers are suspected of carrying out the cyberattack. Stride told Sky that “we are not saying that at this precise moment.”

British media reported that the government will blame “hostile and malign actors” but will not name the country it believes is responsible.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked about the reports, said it opposed all forms of cyberattacks and is against “the use of cybersecurity issues to smear other countries for political purposes deliberately.”

In March, Britain and the United States alleged that hackers linked to the Chinese government had targeted U.S. officials, journalists, corporations, pro-democracy activists and the U.K.’s election watchdog in a campaign of “malicious” cyberattacks. The two countries imposed sanctions on several individuals and the U.S. charged seven alleged hackers, all believed to be living in China.

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