MoD blames bank holiday for failing to inform 270k armed forces personnel of 'China' bank data hack

7 May 2024, 15:21 | Updated: 7 May 2024, 16:01

Soldiers have been warned to watch our for dodgy calls, texts and emails
Soldiers have been warned to watch our for dodgy calls, texts and emails. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Britain’s troops were today warned to watch out for dodgy calls, texts, or activity on their bank accounts over fears their data could have been hacked by China.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has ordered an independent external investigation after names, addresses, service ID numbers and bank details were put at risk.

Up to 270,000 troops, cadets and reservists are feared to have been affected through a third-party payroll provider.

Staff were today told to keep a close eye on their social media, emails, and speak to their bank if they were worried, according to a memo seen by LBC.

The Ministry of Defence appeared to blame the bank holiday for failing to tell those affected internally first, telling staff they were “in the process of informing you following the bank holiday weekend”.

And a new dedicated hotline has been set up for concerned staff.

Read more: China accused of hacking personal details of every single member of the armed forces but Beijing dismisses ‘smear’

Read more: Were William and Harry hacked by China? Royals feared to be among victims after ‘China’ steals bank details from MoD

Chinese hackers are suspected to be behind the major data breach.
Chinese hackers are suspected to be behind the major data breach. Picture: Alamy

Officials are “confident” that May’s pay cheques won’t be affected but have warned some expenses may be late.

Veterans who have served since January 2018 have been written to today.

This afternoon Rishi Sunak hit out at “authoritarian and assertive China” but refused to point the finger at them for the breach.

Mr Sunak said a “malign actor has compromised the armed forces payment network” and insisted the Government had a “very robust policy towards China”.

He added: “They are a country with fundamentally different values to ours that are acting in a way that is more authoritarian and assertive abroad.”

Tory MPs have long called on the Government to take a tougher line on the rogue state.

Today Sir Iain Duncan Smith insisted: “China is behind this. The reluctance, I think, comes from this panic that somehow if we upset China, China will kill the business.”

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said the hack was “deeply concerning” and ministers had “questions to answer”.

But she insisted Britain needed to work with China on issues like trade and climate change.

The payment system in question has been taken offline.

Mr Shapps is due to make a statement to MPs this afternoon.

Downing Street revealed this lunchtime that the MoD had signed up for a new personal data protection service to help set up for early warning signs of any potential data leaks on the internet or dark web.

And LBC understands the Information Commissioner’s Office have also been made aware of the huge breach.

China said the accusations were “completely fabricated and malicious slander”.

LBC has approached the MoD for comment.