Stephansdom: Vienna woken up after hacker sets church bells to ring at 2am

The famous bells at St. Stephan's cathedral rang for almost half an hour before the priest brought peace and quiet back to Vienna's first district.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash
St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

At around 2am this Wednesday, 16, Vienna’s landmark St. Stephan’s cathedral was hacked, and the famous bells started ringing. 

The unexpected alarm clock was halted when cathedral priest Toni Faber personally shut them off using his tablet, Vienna’s Archdiocese spokesperson told ORF.

While at first a technical error was suspected, later in the day the surprising culprit was determined: it was a hacker attack. According to Faber, the cybercriminal gained access to the church’s system through a vulnerability at its remote maintenance systems. 

The technology was at blame but was also the solution, as the priest was able to stop the ringing using his tablet. 

Later, the bells were taken off the standard network, and a VPN and further protections were set up. 


St. Stephan’s (or Stephen’s) cathedral is one of the main symbols of Austria. Located in the centre of Vienna, it is also a tourist magnet: over six million people visit the cathedral every year, according to its website. 

The gothic church has been a cathedral church since 1,365, and it still celebrates catholic services every day of the week, especially during Christian holidays. 

There are several bells in its towers. The most famous one is the Pummerin, which is also the third-largest free-swinging ringing church bell in Europe.

Since the Pummerin is not connected to the internet system, it was not a part of the orchestra this early morning. 

Useful vocabulary

Hackerangriff – hacker attack

Glocken – bells

Dom – cathedral

Kirche – church

Wecker – alarm clock

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Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.