Switzerland’s military is poorly equipped to deal with persistent, long-term cyber attacks, according to a defence ministry internal audit. Documents seen by the media criticize the disjointed nature of the ministry’s current strategy.
The Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Südostschweiz am Sonntag newspapers quoted the audit as saying "various cyber bodies have been created at a strategic level at the [defence ministry] in recent years, although nothing sustainable has been established.” In other words, too many overlapping cyber projects have been started with poor coordination and no long-term thinking.
Defence ministry spokeswoman Karin Suini acknowledged the audit’s findings, but wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday newspapers outlining recent changes in cyber defence strategy. A central working group was set up in February 2016, Suini wrote, following revelations that the state-monitored defence contractor RUAG had been hacked.
Around 23 gigabytes of data was stolen from RUAG between 2014 and the beginning of 2016, although the defence ministry said no crucial information about Swiss armed forces had been hacked.
Last April, Defence Minister Guy Parmelin started work on a ‘Cyber Action Plan’. This had already identified the need for a central body within the ministry to coordinate strategy, Suini wrote. Once implemented in 2020, the action plan will divert 2% of the armed force’s total budget towards tackling cyber crime – CHF100 million out of a CHF5 billion ($5.13 billion) annual budget.
The defence ministry is not tasked with tackling civilian cyber attacks, but could offer support if critical infrastructures are hit. Earlier this month, some 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries were hit by ransomware bug WannaCry, but Switzerland was relatively unscathed by the attack.