Stamping out viruses in Switzerland

The Swiss Internet Security Alliance (SISA) is making an anti-virus kit available to all free of charge.

Text: Anja Eigenmann, published on 11.09.2014

The declared aim of the Swiss Internet Security Alliance (SISA), which SWITCH was involved in founding at the start of September this year, is to make Switzerland’s Internet the cleanest in the world. To make this happen, Internet service providers, hosting and security firms, federal agencies, companies from the financial sector, associations and universities have all come together in the Alliance. The Alliance’s website offers browser and Internet connection checks as well as malware removal and immunisation tools, all free of charge.

We asked Philipp Rütsche, founder and Chairman of SISA, how it works, how the idea came about and what the Alliance has planned for the future.

SISA's free online infrastructure checks, malware removal and immunisation tools are quite a generous gift to the people of Switzerland. Does this mean that we no longer need to spend lots of money on virus scanners and the like?
Philipp Rütsche: What we're offering on the SISA website are industry-standard anti-virus programs that are valid for at least 30 days so that malware infections can be cleaned up. We advise people to install their own anti-virus software and update it every day. If a system does get a virus, however, the best thing to do is a full reset. Anti-virus tools are a bit like putting a plaster on a wound, they don't offer 100% protection. Most computer users find a full reset either too daunting or too time-consuming and need help. There's huge business potential there for IT specialists. The trouble is, very few users actually realise that their computer's infected.

Are Switzerland's computers really in such bad shape?
According to the information we have today, up to 30% of users are victims of phishing, while 74% of Swiss people use outdated, vulnerable browsers to surf the Net. More than half of all attacks on systems are carried out via weaknesses in these older browsers. Well over 30,000 computers in Switzerland are infected with malware. We're seeing 70-80 million cases of suspicious computer activity a day worldwide. It's a shame that, while the Internet service providers or ISPs are capable of identifying which customers are affected, they simply can't inform so many people all at once. By the time people are informed that they have been the victim of an attack, many have already suffered damage.

So how does SISA intend to shield computer owners from the bad guys?
On the one hand, by helping them to protect themselves. We want to encourage them to check on a regular basis whether they can use the Internet safely with their hardware. We give out tips as to where there are gaps in security and help them to fill those gaps. For owners of systems that have been infected, we provide support in the form of the SISA Cleaner. We also want to offer a list of local IT specialists who can perform reinstallation work on site. At the same time, we intend to collect knowledge about new attacks and viruses from users, banks, ISPs etc., bring it all together and automate the analysis process to ensure an extremely swift response. The SISA website should come to be known as the place where you report this kind of thing.

You thought up the idea for this Alliance. How did that come about?
It all started with a single thought. Every customer with a clean computer is good for e-shops, ISPs and banks, and every customer with an infected computer is bad for them. It's thus in the interest of banks and e-shops to protect their customers against viruses. I discussed the idea of a virus-free country with my colleague, cybercrime expert Thorsten Kraft, as far back as 2008. Seeing that my vision needed to be backed up by a suitable infrastructure, I recruited people from banks, e-shops, ISPs and elsewhere and began to involve my contacts. My idea was very well received at the start of this year. The Swiss Internet Security Alliance is now a joint project supported by a large number of individuals and organisations.

What does SISA have planned for the future?
It needs to grow. Every company that does business via the Internet can benefit from becoming a member. We've started quite small because we had an ambitious timetable and wanted to get going as quickly as possible. The next item on our agenda is to add to our service offering for members and users, especially as regards mobile devices. We're certainly not short of ideas.


How infected is Switzerland?

Some 2,700 Swiss website were cleaned of malware in 2013, representing a fall of roughly 4.6% compared with 2012. Despite this decline, however, SWITCH still advises caution, since 10 million new types of malware were discovered in 2013.

Switzerland is faring very well indeed by international standards. It is among the top ten “cleanest” countries thanks to the efforts of its Internet service providers. The most “dangerous” countries as far as the Internet is concerned include China, Turkey, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Russia.

(Source: Pandalabs)
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