The British Army’s computerized recruitment system was shut down for most of the war in Ukraine after applicants’ data was compromised in a possible hack, prompting alarmed officials to suspend its operations.
The registration portal has been offline since mid-March, when it was closed as a precaution when data relating to around 120 army recruits was discovered and put up for sale on the dark web.
Defense sources said they would not comment on whether Russia or Russian actors were involved, although there was a suggestion it was a low-level compromise as it was not clear if there was a hack or if someone just got a screenshot or a printout. .
A UK Army spokesperson said: “Following the compromise of a small selection of recruit data, the Army’s online recruitment services have been temporarily suspended pending an investigation. .
“This investigation is now complete, allowing some functionality to be restored and requests to be processed.”
The hacking of soldiers’ details has been a feature of the war in Ukraine, with hacker group Anonymous claiming to have released the personal details of 120,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine in early April.
The internal defense 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 more than five weeks of the two-month war in Ukraine. Contingency systems were used to manage candidate recruitment.
Those who visited the Army recruiting login page were told “we are currently experiencing technical issues” and applicants wishing to be updated were asked to call a dedicated number if they had “any questions regarding your application”.
Conflicts often drive military recruitment and although Britain did not take part in the war in Ukraine, the deployment of the British army in Poland and Estonia has increased, demonstrating the need for a constant flow of recruits .
Recruitment has been managed jointly by the Capita subcontracting group and the British army since 2012. But performance has been mixed: targets were missed six out of eight years and the army fell short of the 82,050 official requirements. Last year, the target was lowered to 72,500 by 2025.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, which is responsible for data protection, said it had been notified of the incident. But a spokesperson told the Guardian that “after researching and carefully considering the information provided, we have decided that no further action is required at this time.”
It is not yet clear what impact the compromise and closure will have on the number of recruitments.