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More Swiss firms facing cyber-attacks and ransom demands

An attractive target: a Swiss server. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Ransomware attacks by hackers continue to increase sharply, with some 2,700 Swiss firms falling victim over the past year, Beobachter magazine has reported.

The figure for the period August 2020 to August 2021 was arrived at by American cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, Beobachter wrote on Wednesday.

Measured against the 4,800 attacks over the past five years as a whole, this means a big uptick, confirming reports showing increased cyber criminality during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beobachter said however that the real figure could be much higher, since many companies choose to discreetly pay the ransom demanded by hackers rather than face the reputational damage of it going public.

Cybersecurity expert Abdelkader Cornelius told the magazine that around 40% of targeted firms pay the ransoms, which come to an average of $180,000 (CHF167,000) each.

“Ransomware hackers currently demand between 3% and 5% of a company’s annual turnover,” Cornelius said.

Growing list

In Switzerland, various high-profile cases of data breaches have been coming to light, notably at price-watch website Comparis, shut down in July by attackers demanding $400,000 to put it back online. At the time, a Comparis spokesperson told SWI swissinfo.ch that no ransom had been paid. The week after the attack however, Zurich cantonal police said they assumed certain data of the website users had been stolen.

The Stadler rail company, defence contractor RUAG, and the canton Vaud municipality of Rolle have also been targets over the past year or so.

In September, the government said it was planning to beef up defences against cyber-attacks, with plans for a command centre comprising 575 members of the armed forces who will be trained over the coming years. The centre would focus not only on protecting state data, but also critical infrastructure and private companies active in fields like telecoms or transport.

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SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, swissinfo.ch has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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