A memo to Volkswagen Group of America dealers obtained by Automotive News identified a vendor involved in a data breach impacting more than 3.3 million customers and prospective buyers, primarily at Audi.
In the email sent Thursday, Audi of America President Daniel Weissland identified the vendor as Shift Digital, which is “used by Audi, Volkswagen, and some authorized dealers in the United States and Canada.” Two dealers with knowledge of the situation verified the vendor’s identity with Automotive News.
Multiple messages seeking comment were sent Friday to Shift Digital, of Birmingham, Mich., but were not immediately returned. Spokespeople for the Audi and Volkswagen brands declined further comment beyond a statement the automaker released earlier in the day, which did not publicly name the vendor.
The information, gathered for sales and marketing between 2014 and 2019, was in an electronic file the vendor left unsecured, VW of America said in its statement. According to Reuters, the automaker told regulators the vast majority of customers had only phone numbers and email addresses potentially compromised. In some cases, data also included information about a vehicle purchased, leased or inquired about.
However, VW of America said, 90,000 Audi customers and prospective buyers had sensitive data impacted relating to purchase or lease eligibility. The automaker said it will offer free credit protection services to those individuals. This data comprised driver’s license numbers in more than 95 percent of cases. A small number of records included additional data such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers and account numbers.
In his email, Weissland said: “We believe the data was obtained when the vendor left electronic data unsecured at some point between August 2019 and May 2021, when we identified the source of the incident.” He also told dealers that the breached information “does not affect all dealers, but will affect most, if not all, dealers that use the Enterprise Lead Management (ELM) program offered through Shift Digital.”
The automaker said it does not believe sensitive information is involved in Canada, where 163,000 customers were impacted.
More than 3.1 million people affected are in the U.S. Reuters reported the story earlier Friday.
Lindsay VanHulle and Reuters contributed to this report.
We recently discovered that an unauthorized third party obtained limited personal information received from or about customers and interested buyers from a vendor that Audi, Volkswagen and some authorized dealers in the United States and Canada use for digital sales and marketing activities. The information was gathered for these purposes between 2014 and 2019 and was in an electronic file that the vendor left unsecured.
We are notifying all affected individuals directly, regardless of whether we are required to do so by law, and will offer free credit protection services to approximately 90,000 individuals for whom sensitive information was involved.
We take data security very seriously and are committed to safeguarding personal information. We have also informed the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement and regulators, and are working with external cybersecurity experts and the vendor to assess and respond to this situation.
Based on our analysis to date, we believe that the vast majority of the information relates to Audi customers and interested buyers in the United States. At this time, the breakdown is as follows:
• Sensitive Information Relating to Eligibility for a Purchase, Loan, or Lease
o Information relating to approximately 90,000 Audi customers or interested buyers in the United States.
o This sensitive data was comprised of driver’s license numbers in more than 95% of cases. A very small number of records included additional data, such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers and account numbers.
o To our knowledge, no sensitive information (as described above) is involved in Canada.
• Contact Information Received from or about Customers or Interested Buyers
o Information relating to approximately 3.1 million Audi customers or interested buyers in the United States and approximately 163,000 in Canada.
o Information relating to approximately 3,300 Volkswagen customers and interested buyers in the United States.
o This information comprised data such as names, mailing addresses, email addresses or phone numbers and, in some cases, vehicle data such as VINs and vehicle features.
We regret any inconvenience this may cause our current or potential customers. As always, we recommend that individuals remain alert for suspicious emails or other communications that might ask them to provide information about themselves or their vehicle.