Swiss defence contractor break-up questioned after suspected hack

RUAG appears to have suffered a second major hack within five years. © Keystone / Eq Images / Melanie Duchene

Swiss politicians are calling for the partial sale of defence contractor RUAG to be put on hold to investigate allegations of a second major hack against the company.

This content was published on May 21, 2021 - 12:06

The government-owned RUAG International plans to sell off its armaments divisions to concentrate its efforts on space technology. But reports of a recent hack into RUAG’s space unit have raised alarm bells.

According to Swiss public television SRF, unknown hackers gained access to RUAG Space’s systemsExternal link earlier this year. Although the company has denied knowledge of the alleged hack, the perpetrators released evidence to SRF’s Rundschau programme that it had seen sensitive emails between RUAG staff. The hackers also said they had gained access to documents and the ability to amend them.

The motive of the hackers is unknown, but there is no evidence of a ransom being demanded. This follows a separate, more malicious cyberattack on RUAG between 2014 and 2016, apparently orchestrated in Russia.

Several Swiss politicians have sounded the alarm at RUAG’s proposed break-up following reports of the latest hack. The general fear is that Switzerland’s domestic security could be put in danger if compromised business units are sold abroad.

They also question whether security at the company has been sufficiently upgraded in the last five years between the two hacks.

“The sale must be suspended until we have determined the nature of the security problems and it can be proved with certainty that the issue has been cleaned up,” Green Party parliamentarian Marionna Schlatter told SRF on FridayExternal link.

This is a scandal. We have been lied to by RUAG and the Federal Council [government] has been blind in its trust,” said Franziska Roth of the Social Democrats.

The latest allegations have createduncertainty among the Swiss population and also among potential buyers,” said People’s Party politician Thomas Hurter, who called for the sale of RUAG units to be suspended until the problem is cleared up.

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