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UK Defence Minister to update Parliament on cyberattack (Ld)

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London, May 7 (IANS/DPA) UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will update members of Parliament on a cyberattack on a database containing details of armed forces personnel amid reports that China was behind the hack.

A third-party payroll system has been hacked, potentially compromising the bank details of all serving personnel and some veterans, along with this, a few addresses may also have been accessed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) took immediate action when it discovered the breach, taking the external network — operated by a contractor — offline.

Cabinet Minister Mel Stride said the government takes cybersecurity “extremely seriously”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the government was not yet blaming Beijing.

He told Sky News, which first claimed China was behind the hack: “That is an assumption. We are not saying that at this precise moment.”

But Stride said the government viewed Beijing’s government as an “epoch-defining challenge” and “our eyes are wide open when it comes to China”.

He confirmed the attack was on a third-party system rather than an MoD database, but “nonetheless, that’s still a very significant matter”.

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He added that the Ministry of Defence acted “very swiftly” to take the database offline.

“We take cybersecurity extremely seriously. Our intelligence services do, our military does as well.”

The government’s refreshed review of foreign and defence policy had cybersecurity “right at the heart of that, exactly these kinds of risks, particularly when it comes to state actors”.

It is understood that initial investigations have found no evidence that data has been removed.

However, affected service personnel will be alerted as a precaution and provided with specialist advice, as well as they will be able to use a personal data protection service to check whether their information is being used or an attempt is being made to use it.

All salaries were paid at the last payday, with no issues expected at the next one at the end of this month, although there may be a slight delay in the payment of expenses in a small number of cases.

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The MoD confirmed Shapps “will make a planned statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday noon setting out the multi-point plan to support and protect personnel”.

The Ministers will blame hostile and malign actors but will not name the country behind the hacking.

The MoD has been working swiftly to uncover the scale of the attack since it was discovered several days ago.

Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “So many serious questions for the Defence Secretary on this, especially from forces personnel whose details were targeted.”

The revelation comes after the UK and the US in March accused China of a global campaign of “malicious” cyber attacks in an unprecedented joint operation to reveal Beijing’s espionage.

Britain blamed Beijing for targeting the Electoral Commission watchdog in 2021 and for being behind a campaign of online “reconnaissance” aimed at the email accounts of MPs and peers.

In response to the Beijing-linked hacks on the Electoral Commission and 43 individuals, a front company, Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company, and two people linked to the APT31 hacking group were sanctioned.

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But some of the MPs targeted by the Chinese state said the response did not go far enough, urging the government to toughen its stance on China by calling it a “threat” to national security rather than an “epoch-defining challenge”.

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith repeated those calls, telling Sky News: “This is yet another example of why the UK government must admit that China poses a systemic threat to Britain and change the integrated review to reflect that.”

“No more pretence, it is a malign actor, supporting Russia with money and military equipment, working with Iran and North Korea in a new axis of totalitarian states,” he added.

Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “Targeting the names of the payroll system and service personnel’s bank details, this does point to China because it can be as part of a plan, a strategy to see who might be coerced.”

–IANS/DPA

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One killed after hand grenade explodes during Japan's SDF training

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Tokyo, May 30 (IANS) A member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) on Thursday died over a hand grenade explosion during a training session in Yamanashi Prefecture, immediately west of Tokyo, according to local media reports.

The accident took place around 8.45 a.m. local time at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)’s training ground Kitafuji Exercise Area, where a 29-year-old male soldier taking part in the training was hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade thrown by another SDF member, reports Xinhua news agency.

The injured was rushed to a hospital unconscious but confirmed dead about two hours later, and the GSDF is investigating the cause of the incident which straddles the municipalities of Fujiyoshida and Yamanakako and connects to another training facility in neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture, national news agency Kyodo reported.

In recent years, the SDF has had frequent reports of training casualties. A shooting incident at a GSDF shooting range in Gifu Prefecture killed an SDF member and injured two others in June last year.

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Two Maritime SDF helicopters in April collided and crashed during a night-time anti-submarine drill, killing one and leaving seven others missing.

–IANS

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Iran rules out sabotage explosion behind Raisi's helicopter crash

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Tehran, May 30 (IANS) Iran has ruled out the possibility of a sabotage explosion leading to the helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage, local media reported.

The General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces released the second report on the causes of the helicopter crash on Wednesday, reports the official news agency IRNA.

The report said given the results of the tests on the helicopter’s wreckage and remaining parts and the way the remains had been scattered at the scene of the incident as well as their distance from the fuselage, the possibility of an explosion caused by an act of sabotage during the flight or moments before the chopper’s crash into the mountain was dismissed.

No sign of an act of electronic warfare was detected on the crashed helicopter, it said, adding that the weather conditions on the way back to Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan province, would need further investigations.

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According to the report, the total weight of the passengers and equipment onboard was proportionate to the helicopter’s maximum load limit at the time of takeoff and during the flight.

In addition, during the flight and until 69 seconds before the incident’s occurrence, contact had been maintained with the crashed helicopter’s flight crew on the specified frequencies, which dismisses the possibility of any disruption in the communication system or frequency interference, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first report of the investigation committee of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces was released on May 23.

–IANS

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Child among four injured in London shooting

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London, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Three adults and a child have been injured in a shooting near a restaurant in the London neighbourhood of Hackney.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the child is in a serious condition and that they are awaiting updates on the condition of the adults after the shooting on Kingsland High Street.

The four were taken to an east London hospital with “gunshot injuries.”

Police said they were called to the scene at around 9.20 pm (1820 GMT) on Wednesday with specialist firearms officers attending.

The force said no arrests have yet been made.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: “We know Londoners will be shocked by what has taken place tonight.

“Our thoughts go to all those affected.

“Fast-moving inquiries are underway and we will update as soon as we can. If anyone has any information, please contact us.”

–IANS/DPA

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Fourteen Hong Kong activists convicted under national security law

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Shenzhen, China, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Fourteen Hong Kong opposition figures were convicted on Thursday under Beijing’s controversial national security law, the South China Morning Post reported.

Meanwhile, former district councilors Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun were acquitted, becoming the first to do so after trial since the legislation was implemented in June, 2020.

The 16 pro-democracy activists were among 47 people charged with subversion in relation to an unofficial primary election for Hong Kong’s 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo).

The 16, which include former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, had contested the charge while the remaining 31 pleaded guilty before the start of the four-month trial, the Post reported. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The landmark case saw the highest number of activists ever charged under the national security law at one time since it was imposed in response to mass pro-democracy protests.

The national security law has made it easier for the Chinese authorities to crack down on activists for behaviour they class as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with a foreign power.

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–IANS/DPA

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Thousands protest in New Zealand as government reveals budget

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Wellington, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets on Thursday in a nationwide protest ahead of the new government’s first budget.

Te Pati Maori (the Maori Party) alongside the Toitu Te Tiriti (Honour the Treaty) called for the protests to demonstrate a unified response to “the Government’s assault” on Maori and New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Pati Maori called for the establishment of a Maori Parliament after the protests.

“Up and down the country, near 100-thousand people have taken part in activation rallies and we have saturated social media networks. We have mobilised our people in a matter of days in a beautiful harmonious activation against this Government,” it said in a statement.

“Seeing Tangata Tiriti (non-Maori) and Tangata Whenua (Maori) as one, which is the true intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is exactly what scares the bejesus out of this government.”

“We now begin the process of establishing our own Parliament. Our people will design what this looks like for us, nobody else.”

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Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said officers were monitoring multiple gatherings across the country.

“While there has been disruption to travel in some locations, the participants have been well-behaved overall.”

Johnson said in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, hundreds of vehicles had clogged roads.

Groups were converging in Auckland central, on Parliament Grounds in Wellington, and in many other cities and towns.

“Police are in attendance and are focused on maintaining public safety while recognising the right to peaceful protest,” Johnson said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis revealed her first budget on Thursday afternoon in Wellington.

“This year’s Budget is the clean-up job New Zealand needs after six years of economic mismanagement,” she said.

“We are welcoming in a new era of careful government spending, lower taxes for hard-working New Zealanders and a strong focus on rebuilding the economy.”

The protests were a follow-up of Te Pati Maori’s Day of National Action in December, in response to the policies of the coalition government.

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Since the new government was formed in November, it has overturned some of the anti-tobacco laws introduced by the previous left-wing government, axed the country’s Maori Health Authority and encouraged its ministries to roll back the use of the Maori language.

–IANS/DPA

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