UK's Defence Academy hit by damaging cyber attack, ex-military chief reveals

A cyber attack on the British Defense Academy – possibly by Russia or China – caused “significant” damage, a senior officer revealed.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who left the armed forces in August, told Sky News that the attack, which was discovered in March 2021, resulted in the Defense Academy being forced to rebuild its network.

He said he didn’t know if criminals or a hostile state like China, Russia, Iran or North Korea were responsible, but the damage was fully repaired months later, Sky reported.

Mr Stringer told the outlet, “It could be one of them, or it could just be someone trying to find a vulnerability for a ransomware attack that was just a real criminal organization.”

He added, “There was a cost to … the operational performance. There was an opportunity cost in what our employees could have done when they needed to repair that damage.

“And what could we spend the money on that we had to raise to rebuild the network? There are no bodies in the streets, but some damage has still been done. “

Sky News reported that no sensitive information was stored on the academy’s network.

The school, based in Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, teaches 28,000 military personnel, diplomats and civil servants annually and has moved more online during the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Sky, the first since leaving the military, Mr. Stringer said that “unusual activity” was first spotted by contractors working for outsourcing company Serco, and the “alarm bells” began to ring.

He told the point of sale that there were “outside agents on our network who looked like they were there for nefarious reasons pretty quickly”.

But he told Sky that the attack was unsuccessful and while the hackers may have used the academy as a “back door” to other Department of Defense (MoD) systems, there were no violations outside of the school.

Mr Stringer – who was also director general of Joint Forces Development and led the military to reflect on how it would adapt to the future of warfare – said the attack fell into what is known as a gray area of ​​damage that falls below the threshold of war. according to Sky News.

The site, which is similar to a domain for a university, had to be completely rebuilt, a task that is still ongoing, Sky said.

The National Cyber ​​Security Center, a branch of the GCHQ, was also made aware of the hack, Sky News reported.

The outlet reported that a Department of Defense spokesman said, “In March 2021, we became aware of an incident affecting Defense Academy’s IT infrastructure. We acted quickly and there was no impact on the Department of Defense’s broader IT network. Teaching at the Defense Academy was continued. “

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