World News 8 Mayıs 2024

Defence secretary confirms name of contractor running MoD system hacked by China

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the name of the contractor running the Ministry of Defence’s payroll system that was hacked by China.

Mr Shapps told parliament that SSCL (Shared Services Connected Ltd) is the contractor and their work is being reviewed across government following the cyber attack – which China has denied.

Politics Live: ‘Malign actor’ behind MoD hack – but government refuses to name China

The cabinet minister initially did not name the company operating the payroll, but told MPs that there is evidence of “potential failings” which “may have made it easier for the malign actor” to gain access to the bank details of service personnel and veterans.

In response, Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said the government had “many serious questions to answer”, and went on to claim that “Shared Services Connected Ltd has the MOD contract for core payroll and other business services”.

Mr Shapps replied: “He has named the contractor that was involved, I can confirm that’s the correct name, SSCL.

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MP names contractor running hacked MoD system

“I’ve requested from the Cabinet Office a full review of their work across government as well as within MoD, which is underway.”

Sky News revealed last night that the Chinese state had hacked the Armed Forces’ payroll system.

China said the accusations are “completely fabricated and malicious slanders”.

Names, addresses and bank details of current Army, Royal Navy and RAF personnel and some veterans were exposed by the hack.

SSCL is a subsidiary of the Paris-based tech company Sopra Steria. The company is the largest provider of business support services for the government and the UK military, as well as the Metropolitan Police Service.

Its website says it provides payroll, HR and pension services to 230,000 military personnel and reservists, and two million veterans, with a “wholly safe and secure service” that is “data protected to the highest levels”.

Rishi Sunak earlier refused to name China as the hacker but said Beijing has “fundamentally different values to ours” and it is “acting in a way that is more authoritarian and assertive abroad”.

‘State involvement’ can’t be ruled out

In his statement to MPs, Mr Shapps said that “state involvement” cannot be ruled out but also did not name China, saying the details of the suspected culprit can’t be released for national security reasons.

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PM defends ‘robust’ China policy

Former leader of the Conservative Party Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge “there is a resistance to want to call out what China really is”.

He said under the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme “there is the capacity to basically place them in the enhanced tier, which means they are a threat. And I would simply recommend that the government does that pretty quickly”.

The decision not to name Beijing was also criticised by former armed forces minister Mark Francois, who called for the government to “stand up” to China.

He told the Commons: “This will be very worrying for service personnel, their families and veterans.

“And they’ll be disrespected that the government seems to have briefed that it was China overnight and then not had the nerve to confirm that in the House today, because someone rang up from the Foreign Office and said ‘don’t do that’.”

Mr Shapps said the government did “everything we could” to avoid news of the hack being leaked before his statement to parliament, and that ministers wanted to prioritise closing the system down and ensuring personnel were paid “before we came to this house”.

“We most certainly did not wish to see or brief out the story. Unfortunately, because there are a large number of people potentially impacted it was almost impossible for people not to go and then talk about, and I believe that’s how it’s come into the public domain.”

Read More:
Ministers look odd as the government isn’t naming Beijing publicly
Beijing poses ‘constant’ threat to Western cybersecurity

He added: “We’ve launched a full investigation, drawing on Cabinet Office support and specialist external expertise to examine the potential failings of the contractor and to minimise the risk of similar incidents in the future.”

Mr Shapps said up to 272,000 service personnel may have been hit by the data breach and set out an eight-point plan to support and protect those potentially affected.

Initial investigations have found no evidence that any data has been removed, but affected armed forces personnel have been alerted as a precaution.

The payment network is “an external system completely separate to the MoD’s core network”, Mr Shapps stressed.

He apologised “to the men and women who are affected by this”, adding “it should not have happened”.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London denied the country had anything to do with an MoD hack and said it had made “relevant responses” to accusations on the 25 and 27 March.

He accused the UK of politicising cyber security and claimed there was no factual evidence of China hacking the MoD.

Sky News has approached SSCL and Sopra Steria for a comment.

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