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'Very strong possibility' Russia linked to 'shocking' rise in security breaches at Britain's nuclear submarine base

5 September 2023, 08:50 | Updated: 5 September 2023, 09:01

Security breaches have risen dramatically at HMNB Clyde
Security breaches have risen dramatically at HMNB Clyde. Picture: Getty
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

Security breaches nearly quadrupled at Britain's nuclear submarine base in just 12 months, and there's a good chance the rise is linked to Russia.

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Information seen by LBC shows 60 incidents were recorded in 2022 at HMNB Clyde - commonly known throughout the Navy as Faslane.

That's compared to just 16 in 2021 at the home of the Vanguard fleet which can be armed with Trident missiles - a 275% rise in one year.

And only 18 incidents were recorded there in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Only two breaches had been recorded at Faslane by March 2022 - meaning the remainder would have happened after the full invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: Plans for £1.3bn nuclear submarine found in Cumbrian Wetherspoons toilets

Read more: Rishi Sunak strikes multi-billion-pound submarine deal with US and Australia amid growing threat from China

The security breaches could be linked to Russia
The security breaches could be linked to Russia. Picture: Getty

The figures come days after it was revealed that security information about HMNB Clyde has been leaked online by hackers linked to Russia.

The term 'security breaches' refers to - but is not limited to - incidents of minor breaches, mis-accounted documentation, lost ID cards and breaches of personal electronic device zones and general data protection regulation.

Former senior British Army intelligence officer Philip Ingram MBE described the figures as a "shocking increase".

He told LBC: "It's interesting if this happened from March 2022 just as the Russians carried out their reinvasion of Ukraine.

"Looking for any potential links in that is something the authorities will do.

A Trident submarine in the naval base
A Trident submarine in the naval base. Picture: Getty

"Security breaches around the nuclear deterrent range from minor breaches like not having correct passes to major breaches.

"For example, if someone takes a personal telephone that has been compromised into a very secure area where there's secure discussions going on about nuclear patrol programmes or about engineering issues on our nuclear deterrent then that can be very serious indeed.

"I think there is a very strong possibility some of them will be linked to increased activity from the Russians.

"Whether that be direct activity or activity that they're stimulating. The authorities will have to investigate. It's important that the MoD [Ministry of Defence] looks at this closely."

Tobias Ellwood
Tobias Ellwood. Picture: Alamy

Conservative MP and Chair of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood said: "Russia is seeing us very much as an important supporter of Ukraine.

"They're trying to distract us if you like with these attacks on some of our mainland assets including HMNB Clyde where our nuclear deterrent is kept.

"Murky, clandestine threats are only increasing as (these) studies have shown which I think illustrates just how the nature of warfare is changing.

"Away from the battlefield, the traditional military might on either side of the frontline, to the digital sphere of attacking from afar using cyber capabilities."

"Understanding what we are doing to either eavesdrop, steal information or interfere.

A Royal Marine patrols the waters at HMNB Clyde
A Royal Marine patrols the waters at HMNB Clyde. Picture: Getty

"A great example of that is what happened at Heathrow when the Air Traffic Control system came to a complete halt simply because of an error.

"That was simply a civilian mistake. Imagine if that was done deliberately by a competitor or an adversary."

LBC asked the MoD to explain the rise in breaches and if they could rule out suggestions some were linked to an increase in Russian hacking or cyber attack attempts.

A spokesperson responded: "Although the Ministry of Defence do not comment on individual security arrangements at HMNB Clyde, we do take security extremely seriously.

"Our security procedures are reviewed and updated regularly to improve effectiveness.

"It is important to be aware that all security related incidents are recorded, however minor, and can include failure to display passes, loss of ID cards, and general Data Protection Regulation breaches etc."

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