Search This Blog

Attack on UK's Defence Academy Compelled a Rebuild of the IT System

The cyber attack on United Kingdom's Defence Academy had a "significant" impact.


According to a former senior officer, a probable nation-state attack on the UK's primary defense training facility last year compelled the academy to replace its IT infrastructure. Air Marshal Edward Stringer recently retired as the director-general of joint force development and the UK Defence Academy. 

Every year, the academy teaches roughly 30,000 UK armed forces personnel, as well as civil officials and military personnel from foreign countries. However, it was caught off guard by a cyber-attack in March of last year, which had "significant" operational ramifications, according to Stringer. 

IT team had to find backup ways to use regular internet, etc, to keep the courses running, which they did - but not as smoothly as before, to be fair, added Stringer.

He claimed he didn't know whether the hackers were criminals or a hostile state, but his main concern was whether the hackers sought to use the Defence Academy as a "backdoor" into much more secret portions of the MOD's IT systems. When asked if the cyberspies were effective, Air Marshal Stringer replied, "No, I was quite confident, that there hadn't been any other breaches beyond the Defence Academy." 

Despite the fact that no important information is believed to have been stolen, teaching was disrupted when courses were shifted online owing to the pandemic. “It doesn’t look like a violent attack, but there were costs. 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,” Stringer said. “What could we be spending the money on that we’ve had to bring forward to rebuild the network? There are no bodies in the streets, but there’s still been some damage done.” 

The MOD's digital branch launched an inquiry into the cyber-attack, but no findings - such as who was behind it - have been made public. The incident was also reported to the National Cyber Security Centre, a part of GCHQ. 

That rebuilding looks to be ongoing, with a note on the present Defence Academy website stating: “new website coming soon … please bear with us while we continue to update our site … check back soon for updates.” 

Serco, an outsourcing contractor, is purportedly in charge of the academy's IT systems, including website maintenance. While China, Russia, and other adversaries would surely have been motivated to undertake an attack, Stringer stopped short of attributing it to state-sponsored operatives.
Share it:

Cyber Attacks

IT system

Nation-State Attacks

United Kingdom