Swisscom says data tapes passed to newspaper
* Company says 3 of the four tapes passed to NZZ returned
* Swisscom unaware whether customer data was on tapes
* Tapes were due to be destroyed - spokesman
ZURICH, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Switzerland's largest telephone company Swisscom said on Wednesday four data tapes that may have come from its own data centres and contain internal backup files and employee emails had been passed to a national newspaper.
This would make it the second incidence of loss of data reported at a major telecoms company in one month, after UK telecoms giant Vodafone said a hacker had stolen the names, addresses and bank account numbers of about 2 million German customers.
Analyst estimates of the global cost of data theft to companies and individuals run into the tens of billions of dollars per year. Switzerland has fierce privacy laws, and recently sentenced a computer specialist to three years in jail for selling client data from Swiss bank Julius Baer to the German tax authorities.
Swisscom said three out of the four data tapes, handed over to the German-language daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) by a person unknown to the company, had now been returned.
It said NZZ had returned a fourth tape to the source. NZZ declined to give any further details and Swisscom said it was now trying to recover that tape.
"The records concerned are apparently backup files from 2008 to 2010 containing internal Swisscom data, including e-mails," Swisscom said in a statement.
Swisscom, majority-owned by the Swiss government which holds a 56.7 percent stake, said it could not rule out that customer information was stored on the tapes.
A spokesman for Swisscom said the company realised the tapes had been taken last week when it was contacted by NZZ.
He said the data tapes had been stacked on pallets and were due to be destroyed, and that there was no indication other tapes had been taken. He said the company was unable to determine if any copies of the tapes had been made.
Swisscom said it had begun an internal investigation, initiated legal proceedings against persons unknown and told the Federal Data Protection Commissioner about the incident. (Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto and Albert Schmieder; editing by David Evans)
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