If you currently want to read the e-paper of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, you may have problems. The NZZ points out that it has become the target of a cyber attack. There are also problems with CH-Media. The editorial offices fell victim to hackers at the end of last week. SRF business editor Pascal Lago suspects that the NZZ may be being blackmailed.
Pascal Lago studied economics in Zurich and St. Gallen. He has been working as a business editor at Radio SRF since March 2022.
SRF News: What do you know about possible blackmail?
Pascal Lago: The NZZ itself does not deny cyber blackmail. But she doesn’t comment on that either. However, it is known that this is a so-called ransomware attack. In this type of attack, the attackers usually aim for blackmail.
In order to decrypt the data again, a ransom must be paid.
IT systems and data are encrypted by the hackers so the company is cut off from everything connected to the internet. In order to decrypt everything again, a ransom must usually be paid. Sometimes sensitive data is also stolen and threatened to be made public unless a ransom is paid.
What can you do?
There is no such thing as 100% security on the Internet. Nevertheless, experts recommend certain measures to prevent hacker and ransomware attacks as far as possible. This includes:
- External and regular backups of all company data.
- Always keep the software up to date, carry out updates regularly.
- Train employees so that they do not fall for a so-called phishing e-mail, for example, and thus possibly open the doors to the company’s IT for an attacker.
How serious is the attack on the NZZ editorial team?
According to the NZZ, the attack was recognized early and isolated. And yet, to this day, the systems and services are still not working as they should. For example, the e-paper can only be used to a limited extent, and according to the NZZ it is possible that the newspaper will be a little thinner than usual at times in the future.
It is not known whether sensitive data was stolen from the NZZ.
For example, it is not known whether sensitive internal data has been stolen. At least it is certain that the NZZ is working with the Zurich cantonal police and the National Center for Cyber Security on measures to rectify the disruption.
The NZZ is not an isolated case; the University of Zurich, for example, was recently the victim of a cyber attack. Is this impression deceptive, or are such attacks becoming more frequent?
In fact, more and more cyber attacks are happening. The federal government assumes that they have more than doubled in the last two years. Around every third SME in Switzerland falls victim to a cyber attack. And experts say that about half of the companies affected pay the ransom, meaning they allow themselves to be blackmailed.
How great is the damage to the Swiss economy that is caused by this?
That’s hard to estimate because companies typically don’t report cyberattacks. Insurance companies and antivirus software vendors try to estimate the costs conservatively. You are assuming several million Swiss francs per year in Switzerland. Worldwide it is probably about tens of billions of francs. These numbers represent any cost associated with cyberattacks: paying ransoms, downtime, recovering data, or restoring customer relationships and trust.
Brigitte Kramer conducted the interview.