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UK’s army recruitment Portal closed since March after data was breached

Britain’s computerised army recruitment system has been closed for most of the war in Ukraine after candidate data was compromised in a possible hack, prompting alarmed officials to suspend its operations.

The enrolment portal has been offline since mid-March, when it was shut as a precaution when data relating to an estimated 120 army recruits was discovered being offered for sale on the dark web.

Defence sources said they would not comment on whether Russia or Russian actors were involved, although there is a suggestion it was a low-level compromise because it was unclear if there had been a hack or if someone had simply obtained a screen grab or print out.

A British army spokesperson said: “Following the compromise of a small selection of recruit data, the army’s online recruitment services were temporarily suspended pending an investigation.

“This investigation has now concluded allowing some functionality to be restored and applications to be processed.”

Hacking of soldiers’ details has been a feature of the war in Ukraine, with hacker group Anonymous claiming to have released personal details of 120,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine in early April.

The internal Defence Recruitment System has now been restored, the army said, after a lengthy investigation, but the external online portal remains down and the problem has complicated army recruitment for over five weeks of the two-month war in Ukraine. Emergency systems have been used to handle candidate recruitment.

Those visiting the army recruitment login page were being told “we are currently experiencing some technical issues” and candidates wanting to be updated had to call a dedicated number if they had “any questions surrounding your application”.

Conflicts often act as a spur to military recruitment and while Britain is not fighting in the war in Ukraine, there has been increased British army deployment in Poland and Estonia – demonstrating the need for a steady stream of recruits.

Recruitment has been handled jointly by outsourcing group Capita and the British army since 2012. But performance has been mixed: targets were missed in six years out of eight and the army remained below its 82,050 official requirement. Last year the target was dropped to 72,500 by 2025.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, responsible for data protection, said it had been informed of the incident. But a spokesperson told the Guardian that “after making inquiries and carefully reviewing the information provided, we decided no further action was needed at this time”.

It is not yet clear what impact the compromise and shutdown will have on recruitment numbers.

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