Defence Secretary Oral Statement to provide a Defence Personnel Update – 07 May 2024

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps provided an oral statement to the House of Commons on 07 May 2024, to update the House on a data incident involving activity by a malign actor.

Mr Speaker, I’d like to update the House on a data incident involving activity by a malign actor.

In recent days, the Ministry of Defence has identified indications that a malign actor gained access to part of the Armed Forces payment network.

This is an external system, completely separate to MOD’s core network, and it is not connected to the main military HR system.

The House will wish to note that it is operated by a contractor, and there is evidence of potential failings by them, which may have made it easier for the malign actor to gain entry.

A specialist security review of the contractor’s operations is underway and appropriate steps will be taken.

The contractor-operated system in question held the personal data of regular and reserve personnel and some recently retired veterans.

This includes names and bank details, and, in a smaller number of cases, addresses.

In response to this incident, Mr Speaker, we have undertaken significant and immediate action, enacting a multi-point response plan to support and protect our people.

I’d like to provide detail to the House on what this eight-point plan will deliver.

Firstly, we immediately took the system offline. This has secured it against further similar threats.

Secondly, we have launched a full investigation, drawing on Cabinet Office support and specialist external expertise to examine potential failings by the contractor and to minimise the risk of similar incidents in the future.

Three – whilst our initial investigations have found no evidence that any data has been removed, as a precaution, we have today alerted those service personnel affected through the chain of command.

In addition, we are also sending out letters to a small number of veterans who have retired and who may have been affected, as a precaution.

The House will wish to note that the vast majority of our UK veterans’ community are, however, unaffected.

Four – specialist advice and guidance on data security has been shared and will be available on

Fifth, we have additionally set up a helpline to support individuals. This helpline is available now and the number is 01249 596665.

Next, we are providing a commercial personal data protection service for serving personnel.

This facility will constantly monitor each individual’s personal data and notify them of any irregularities.

Even though we do not believe their information has been stolen, this will help bring peace of mind.

Seven – welfare and financial advice is available where needed through each individual’s chains of command.

And eight, on becoming aware of this incident, MOD stopped the processing of all payments and isolated the system.

And I want to provide further detail on this particular step: We are making changes to the system to ensure it is secure before recommencing payments.

I can confirm in the meantime all April salaries have been paid.

Some service personnel will have experienced a slight delay in receiving some expense payments, however, we expect this to be fully resolved today, with money in their accounts by Friday.

Furthermore, I can confirm that we are ensuring all high-value payments are unaffected.

For example, all outstanding Forces Help To Buy and Terminal Benefits payments have been facilitated by a secure transfer.

As mentioned – salary payments and pensions for veterans have not been affected and we do not expect them to be in the future.

Mr Speaker, for reasons of national security we cannot release further details of the suspected cyber activity behind this incident.

However, I can confirm to the House that we do have indications that this was the suspected work of a malign actor and we cannot rule out state involvement.

This incident is further proof that the UK is facing rising and evolving threats and, as I set out in my speech at Lancaster House in January, the world is, I’m afraid, becoming somewhat more dangerous.

Last month, this Government therefore announced an increase in defence spending to meet these new threats, reaching 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade.

Following this incident, I can also announce today that although this incident is entirely unrelated to our own MOD networks, we are also reviewing all personnel data to ensure our people’s data is secure.

This was the work of a malign actor who compromised a contractor-run network, entirely separate from the MOD core system.

However, as I’ve said, we cannot at this stage rule out state involvement from elsewhere.

This eight-point plan outlines the immediate and significant action we have taken to protect our most precious resource, our people.

And, even though this has occurred on a contractor system, with a malign actor involved – and we can’t rule out that foreign state involvement – I want to apologise to the men and women affected by this.

It should not have happened, and this eight-point plan seeks to ensure it is put right and that it cannot happen again.

I commend this statement to the House.