Ministry of Defence hit by IT failures affecting military and civilian staff for two days

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is investigating the cause of IT failures that hit serving personnel and civilian staff for two days at the beginning of this week.

The system issues began on Monday morning and affected all services on the MoDNet internal operating systems, including email, internal communications and cloud-based document servers.

An investigation into the “network disruption” was completed on Wednesday afternoon and the MoD did not find any evidence of a cyber attack from a hostile state such as Russia.

It is believed that the issues affected all 187,000 serving military personnel as well as the MoD’s 60,000 civilian staff.

One serving officer who operates from a UK military base said they could not “use our email, communicate across forces or access critical documents”, adding it was “affecting the operation of the UK Armed Forces”.

“We’re talking about sensitive information and communications, and we don’t know if it’s merely an internal issue or whether external groups may be reading it.”

Regardless of the cause, the source said it showed “how vulnerable our IT systems are”.

Another MoD source told i that “the system has not been working for a couple of days,” adding that there had been several similar issues with MoD IT systems since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

The MoD’s £900m upgrade to IT systems has been hit by problems since it was launched in 2015.

In 2017, the defence department suspended the upgrade across the armed forces after a series of failings for which the MoD blamed the supplier, which was a consortium of private sector companies led by American technology group DXC.

Following these issues, the MoD launched the £400m MoDNET Evolve programme, which was designed replace the existing contract.

Government IT systems have been the target of state-backed hacking groups for some time.

As i revealed in August, Russian and Chinese hackers accessed the Foreign Office’s internal systems in a major security breach that was kept secret from the public for two years.

While the Government insisted that the breach did not give the hackers access to classified information, insiders claimed state-linked actors would have been able to gain access to correspondence from ambassadors or diplomats positioned abroad which was not marked as classified.

In July, the MoD was also forced to launch an investigation after officials accidentally sent emails containing classified information to a close Russian ally instead of the US after a typing error.

Emails intended for the US Defense Department were sent to Mali because of the accidental omission of an “i” from an email address, meaning they went to the west African country’s .ml domain, rather than the US military’s .mil.

In another security alert in September, thousands of MoD papers were stolen by Russian-linked hackers in a ransomware attack. The documents were uploaded to the dark web after the LockBit ransomware group hacked into fencing manufacturers Zaun.

Earlier this week, Russian hackers also claimed responsibility for a cyber attack that rendered the official Royal Family website inaccessible for around two hours on Sunday.