The media company NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) had to shut down its systems for newspaper production, the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA reported yesterday. The NZZ has been struggling with a ransomware attack for around two weeks. According to media reports and own statements, a number of systems and services of the NZZ infrastructure are and were affected by the cyber attack. According to the NZZ, the cyber attack was detected and isolated early on, and NZZ-IT called in the help of external specialists and experts from the National Center for Cyber Security (NCSC) and the Zurich cantonal police. However, the situation is obviously still not resolved.
As a result of the cyber attack, the intranet and the services of the human resources department were no longer available. Printed editions of the NZZ are sometimes only available in a slightly reduced size, and the electronic edition (e-paper) was also affected in some cases. At Easter, the NZZ (one of the oldest continuously appearing newspapers worldwide, first edition January 1780) reduced its newspaper production completely and produced the Saturday edition on Thursday. But this one is at least 10 fewer pages compared to other Saturday editions.
customers are also affected
Other media companies were also affected by this cyber attack, such as Le Temps, a French-language daily newspaper published in Geneva. The NZZ controls the print and digital marketing of Le Temps, which is why there were temporary complications with the ad processing there, but without any impact on the final production, as the Swiss media journal persoenlich.com reports.
Due to the cyber attack, there were and are also significant problems for CH Media, a joint venture of the German-speaking Swiss AZ Medien and NZZ-Regionalmedien. Because of the ransomware problems, CH Media cannot access NZZ services that are important for its production, such as various IT services. This has already led to difficulties and limitations: “Emergency expenditure, emergency broadcasts, emergency programs” outlines it persoenlich.com.
For example, on Easter Saturday instead of 16 different local daily newspaper editions, only four editions were produced by CH Media, as the company announced. Daily newspapers in all three major regions of northwestern Switzerland, eastern Switzerland and central Switzerland are therefore affected. All journalistic content would be accessible online and via the app. CH Media includes the Aargauer Zeitung, the Luzerner Zeitung and the online newspaper Watson as well as around 80 other brands.
As Keystone-SDA previously reported, Radio FM 1, which belongs to CH Media, initially had to broadcast from a studio in Zurich for a week instead of the usual studio in St. Gallen. Because there “databases, studio computers, service computers and clients were compromised”, persoenlich.com quoted from an internal mail. Operation in St. Gallen was no longer possible.
Successful ransomware attacks result in access to IT systems being blocked and/or data being encrypted in order to blackmail companies and demand a ransom. As Keystone-SDA reported with reference to publishing circles, a ransom demand was also made during the NZZ attack. Both media companies did not comment on this. However, the NZZ itself does not deny that it is being blackmailed, as Radio SRF reports.
It is currently unclear how long the effects of the hacker attack will last. Due to the “rolling development”, no information can be given, the NZZ said. According to SDA-Keystone, the company is also not allowed to provide any further information on further effects on the CH-Media titles, as this is part of an ongoing investigation.