VW data leak in North America – over 3.3 million customers affected

Updated June 11, 2021 at 8:53 p.m.

  • After the “Dieselgate” scandal, Volkswagen’s US business is finally running smoothly again, but now there is a new problem.
  • A data breach left information from over three million customers in the unauthorized hands.
  • VW has already informed the public prosecutor and turned on the judicial authorities.

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New trouble for Volkswagen in North America: Due to a breakdown at a business partner, the data of more than 3.3 million people was unsecured on the Internet for over a year. According to what we know so far, go VW assume that customers and prospective buyers of the Audi subsidiary are particularly affected, said a company spokesman on Friday. The US blog “Techcrunch” had previously reported on the data leak and published a letter to customers and a corresponding letter from a lawyer.

According to VW, the majority of the data is only contact information. This part of the leak includes names, e-mail addresses, telephone and sometimes vehicle numbers of around 3.1 million Audi customers in the USA and 163,000 in Canada as well as 3,300 VW customers in the US. However, more confidential data from around 90,000 Audi customers was also unprotected. 95 percent of these cases are about driver’s license numbers, but a small proportion also concern highly sensitive information such as US social security and bank account numbers.

An international law firm said in letters to attorneys general in the USA of June 10th on behalf of Volkswagen and Audi that an unauthorized third party has gained limited access to customer data. VW turned on the judicial authorities and hired external data analysis and cybersecurity experts. The leaked information was therefore collected between 2014 and 2019 by a business partner for sales and marketing purposes.

The company’s image in the USA has been scratched anyway

According to the VW spokesman, the attorney’s letters to the public prosecutor’s offices are merely a formal step that companies in the US are obliged to take in the event of such customer data leaks. It is a proactive measure that does not give any indication of investigations by the judicial authorities. Volkswagen initially did not provide any information on who the business partner was who had the data breach, and did not want to comment on possible consequences for the company when asked.

VW had a difficult position in North America for years anyway because of the “Dieselgate” scandal uncovered by US environmental authorities in September 2015. The massive manipulation of exhaust gas measurements had severely damaged the company’s image and caused sales figures in the USA to collapse at times. VW went to great lengths to polish up its reputation and win back the trust of US customers. Most recently, business was back to normal, with VW’s US sales increasing by 21 percent in the first quarter. (dpa / fra)
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