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3 Jan, 2022 09:50

Hackers attacked UK Defence Academy in 2021

The Ministry of Defence academy was hit by a cyberattack last year, its former director said
Hackers attacked UK Defence Academy in 2021

Unknown hackers inflicted "significant" costs on the UK’s Defence Academy last year, but were unable to infiltrate the wider servers of the Ministry of Defence, the academy’s former director told British media.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who retired from the armed forces in August, told Sky News that a “sophisticated” cyberattack on the academy was discovered in March.

“The consequences for the operations were significant, but then manageable,” Stringer said, adding that IT staff had to “find back-up ways” to restore the network. He said there were costs to “operational output,” as it was harder for teachers and students to access online materials and read emails.

Stinger suggested that intruders may have tried using the academy’s servers as a backchannel to infiltrate other military institutions, but said that “there hadn't been any other breaches beyond the Defence Academy.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence confirmed to Sky News that it was aware of “an incident” with the academy’s servers in March, and that “there was no impact on the wider Ministry of Defence IT network.”

The ministry did not specify who it thought was responsible. Stringer likewise said he did not know if the attackers were criminals or agents of a hostile power. Sky News reported that investigators suspect China or Russia may have been involved, but that it could have been criminals acting independently. 

The academy, based in Shrivenham, central England, teaches around 28,000 service members, diplomats, and civil servants a year.

In July, then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab blamed “Chinese state-backed groups” for committing cyberattacks against Microsoft. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denied at the time that Beijing was behind the attack.