Switzerland’s biggest telecommunications provider Swisscom has launched a criminal complaint after tapes containing company data were stolen and passed on to a Swiss newspaper.
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper said on Wednesday that it had received four files of information. Names and contact details of Swisscom clients and the status of various projects were contained amid more mundane internal emails arranging barbeques and company cars, the NZZ reported.
Swisscom said it could not yet rule out the possibility that sensitive client data was contained on any of the tapes that went missing en route to being destroyed under routine circumstances.
“Swisscom is working on the assumption that the data tapes were taken illegally and has therefore filed criminal charges against persons unknown with the [Bern] public prosecutor,” the company said in a statement.
“Swisscom has also instigated an in-depth review of the procedure used to dispose of data carriers in order to identify any potential weaknesses.”
The state-owned telecoms firm added that the type of tapes that went missing, containing back-up files from two of its data centres for the years 2008 to 2010, had been replaced by more secure hard disks in 2012.
The security breach will nevertheless be of huge concern to Switzerland’s dominant telecoms company that has been expanding its data storage services in recent years.
With global companies from all business sectors, along with public sector entities, looking to safely store parts of their rapidly expanding mass of electronic data with third parties, a reputation for stringent security and trustworthiness are vital for data storage providers.
In July, against a backdrop of concerns about United States spying in Europe, former Swisscom boss Carsten Schloter told Le Temps newspaper that there had been no confirmed thefts of Swisscom data, despite daily attacks from cyber criminals.
But he added that “there is no such thing as 100 per cent security”.
The data storage business is growing rapidly in Switzerland where companies can leverage the Swiss traditions of client confidentiality, strong data protection laws and stable governance.
Switzerland has the second densest data storage capacity per capita in Europe, according to a recent study by market research consultants Broadgroup.
But Switzerland has also been no stranger to data leak scandals in recent years with banking information being sold to foreign governments by employees blowing the whistle on tax evaders.
The Swiss Data Protection Commissioner’s office confirmed that it was investigating the Swisscom security breach, but had yet to receive full details of the transgression.
“We are in contact with Swisscom to determine the exact circumstances of this incident,” spokeswoman Eliane Schmid told swissinfo.ch. “Swisscom takes data protection seriously and we are routinely in regular contact with the company.”