Swiss firms relatively unscathed by virus scare

WannaCry hit German railways, disabling timetables like this one in Frankfurt, but not disrupting the train service. The ransomware did not affect the Swiss Federal Railways. AFP

Only a few Swiss computers have been hit by the potentially devastating cyber-attack that has struck 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries over the weekend. 

This content was published on May 15, 2017 - 10:32

“In Switzerland only a few small- and medium-sized businesses have been affected. As of now we don’t know of any big firms,” Max Klaus, deputy head of Switzerland’s Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance, told on Monday morning. Some 200 Swiss internet protocol addresses got hit.

The global cyberattack struck on May 12, crippling Britain’s National Health Service. The virus – known as Wanna Decryptor, or WannaCry – is a form of ransomware that locks up computers and demands that victims pay $300 (CHF300) to regain access to their files. Other prominent victims include US parcel service FedEx, French car manufacturer Renault and Russia’s interior ministry. 

“For the past 13 years or so we’ve had very good contact with larger businesses. I think they’re well aware of the risks of cybercrime,” Klaus said when asked why major Swiss companies had been spared. 

The perpetrators of WannaCry took advantage of a Microsoft security breach, however, apparently using tools first developed by the US National Security Agency. As Klaus pointed out, it’s crucial for computers to have a relatively new operating system that’s still supported. 

“Sometimes, small businesses with just two or three employees think twice about paying CHF100 for an update. But this can have a devastating effect depending on what kind of files are involved. In the past there’ve been firms that went out of business on account of something like this,” Klaus said, adding that he hoped that wouldn’t be the case this time. 

In addition to installing supported operating systems with automatic updates, consumers can protect their data through regular backups. Klaus and his organisation emphasise that victims should never pay ransom money. 

In addition to computers, mobile devices with full versions of Microsoft could also be at risk. More information for consumers is available on Microsoft’s website.

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