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27 October 2009, 13:20

Online attacks on Swiss foreign ministry

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The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has reportedly been the target for espionage, with unidentified attackers having used "special software" to penetrate the department's IT infrastructure and procure specific information.

According to a press release, the attempted espionage was discovered on 22nd October 2009 by FDFA IT specialists working in conjunction with Microsoft. The malware is said to have been very well concealed and to have caused almost no perceptible disruption to the IT infrastructure.

The FDFA is still investigating the extent of any damage and whether any data has been lost. It has temporarily isolated its IT network from the internet to prevent any further data loss and as a result, staff are currently unable to send or receive email.

According to the FDFA, its own staff are working with specialists from the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT) and the Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance (MELANI) to resolve the problem. The department expects to be able to restore internet access within a few days.

The FDFA, together with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), was previously targeted by hackers in late 2007. Staff received more than 500 emails in two waves, mails that downloaded a trojan which was not recognised at that time by standard anti-virus solutions.


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