Was the Swiss government attacked by Russian hackers?
Over the weekend, insiders speaking to SonntagsBlick claimed that the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs had been subjected to a cyber attack by Russian hackers. However, official statements from the government have denied the attack took place.
High threat of cyber attacks in Switzerland
A report published by SonntagsBlick stated that hackers with links to Russia sent fraudulent messages and phishing emails to the foreign ministry over the past few weeks, in an attempt to steal important information. It quoted a confidential report by the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS), which said the attacks had been successfully identified and repelled.
The newspaper speculated that the ramping up of cyber attacks on Switzerland may be a result of the large Ukraine reconstruction conference to be held in Lugano this week. EU president Ursula von de Leyen and representatives from around the world are set to meet in the Swiss city to discuss a financial and reconstruction package for Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
The SonntagsBlick report follows a Blick interview with FIS director Christian Dussey, who said that espionage is an “ever-present phenomenon... Geneva, as an international centre, remains an espionage hotspot.” Dussey noted that the number of espionage activities in Switzerland, like those seen in Montreux in 2021, has increased over the past few years and that the “threat of cyberattacks... is very real.”
Swiss intelligence services deny any attack took place
However, soon after the SonntagsBlick report was released, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in Bern contradicted the paper’s claims. The NCSC said that it had no knowledge of any targeted cyber attacks against the Swiss government or critical infrastructure "carried out in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine."
While it did not address the claim directly, the NCSC added that defence against “phishing attacks” and fraudulent messages was part of the daily routine for the agency.