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

2 January 2022, 22:54

Cyber attacks have doubled in past year, GCHQ director warns
Cyber attacks have doubled in past year, GCHQ director warns. Picture: PA

The attack, possibly carried out by a hostile state or a criminal network, caused ‘significant’ damage, a retired high-level officer said.

A cyber attack on the UK’s Defence Academy – possibly by Russia or China – caused “significant” damage, a retired high-ranking officer has revealed.

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

He said he did not know if criminals or a hostile state, like China, Russia, Iran or North Korea, were responsible but the damage has yet to be fully rectified months on, Sky reported.

Mr Stringer told the outlet: “It could be any of those or it could just be someone trying to find a vulnerability for a ransomware attack that was just, you know, a genuine criminal organisation.”

He added: “There were costs to… operational output. There were opportunity costs in what our staff could have been doing when they were having to repair this damage.

“And what could we be spending the money on that we’ve had to bring forward to rebuild the network? There are not bodies in the streets but there’s still been some damage 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 a year and moved more online during the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Sky, the first since he left the military, Mr Stringer said “unusual activity” was first discovered by contractors working for outsourcing company Serco and “alarm bells” started ringing.

Gavin Williamson visits Salisbury Plain
Edward Stringer, right, said the cyber attack had been damaging (Corporal Mark Larner RLC/MoD/PA)

He told the outlet there were “external agents on our network who looked like they were there for what looked pretty quickly like nefarious reasons”.

But he disclosed to Sky the attack was not successful and while the hackers may have been using the academy as a “backdoor” to other Ministry of Defence (MoD) systems, there were no breaches beyond the school.

Mr Stringer – who was also director general of joint force development and led the military thinking about how it would adapt to the future of warfare – said the attack fell within a so-called grey zone of harm, which falls below the threshold of war, according to Sky News.

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

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

The outlet reported that an MoD spokesperson said: “In March 2021 we were made aware of an incident impacting the Defence Academy IT infrastructure. We took swift action and there was no impact on the wider Ministry of Defence IT network. Teaching at the Defence Academy has continued.”

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

Glastonbury Festival 2019

EE expects Glastonbury data usage to double at this year’s festival

Ford geofencing technology

Ford trials geofencing tech to automatically control vehicle speed

The Duomo in Milan on Google Street View

Google Street View’s ‘time travel’ feature comes to smartphones

Facebook

Facebook and Instagram to reveal more on how ads target users

Mark Zuckerberg

Washington sues Mark Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica privacy breach

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones

More powerful cameras key to smartphone success, says Google manager

An underwater drone on a ship deck

Underwater drone carries out first-ever offshore wind farm inspection

Child uses laptop

Create watchdog to protect children online, charity says

Technology Stock

Dark web ‘scramble’ over Buffalo attack amid fears of post-pandemic attacks

Technology stock

Twitter users told to be wary of scam messages about verified accounts

Computer virus stock

Scientists create tool to kill cyber attacks in ‘less than a second’

Attorney General Suella Braverman

International law should be applied to cyberspace, Attorney General to say

Games console controller

Gaming sector in Scotland needs UK-wide network to thrive, report warns

Sir Nick Clegg

Sir Nick Clegg says the metaverse is coming ‘one way or another’

A child at a computer

Online Safety Bill fails to stop violence against women and girls, experts warn

Coders race to take part in Robot Dog Olympics

Coders take part in Robot Dog Olympics to help develop tech solutions for Army