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A cyberattack — possibly by China or Russia — reportedly hit the academic arm of the UK’s Ministry of Defence and had a “significant” impact, the officer in charge at the time has revealed.

According to Sky News, Air Marshal Edward Stringer, who retired from the armed forces in August, said the “sophisticated” hack — discovered last March — prompted the Defence Academy to accelerate plans for its entire network to be rebuilt and made more resilient.

The targeting of an academic institution is a sign of how the frontline in modern warfare can be anywhere, the former director-general of the academy told Sky News.

“The consequences for the operations were significant, but then manageable,” Stringer was quoted as saying.

“But only manageable because your people work incredibly hard to keep things going and find back-up methodologies,” he added.

IT staff had to “find back-up ways to use regular internet, etc, etc, to keep the courses going, which we managed to do – but not as slickly as previously, that would be fair,” he mentioned.

He said he did not know whether criminals or a hostile state were responsible, but a primary concern had been if the hackers had tried to use the Defence Academy as a “backdoor” to penetrate much more secret parts of the MOD’s IT systems.

According to the report, it is the first time a senior — albeit now-former — official has spoken on the record about the cyberattack and its impact on the academy, which is based in Shrivenham, Oxfordshire.

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