N26 outed for 2019 data breach, employees ask for works council

N26, the German challenger bank, experienced an internal data breach in the autumn of 2019, according Finance Forward.

The breach, which was flagged around the end of October, saw employees without enough security clearance given access to unencrypted account information.

The fintech, whose employees are asking for a works council, did not immediately report the incident to regulators.

The breach

Around 300 of N26’s 1,500 employees should have access to unencrypted account information. But insiders tell Finance Forward that more than this 300 had access to sensitive data for an unspecified time.

A worker who spotted the breach sent an urgent error message to her superiors. But these superiors failed to report the breach to the fintech initially.

In her message, she said she was “very surprised at the amount of unencrypted personal information” on an internal N26 database.

With a customer name or email address, unauthorised workers could view users’ transaction data. “Shouldn’t the bug fix be a top priority for everyone?” the employee asked in her message.

Finance Forward says N26 took more than a week to fix the bug following the employees’ error message. But it’s alleged that the company knew about the breach before this, and that it became office gossip for a time.

The challenger has responded to these claims saying it “does not tolerate any violations”. Any employees that do violate its security measures are immediately fired, it says.

Worries amongst N26 team

Many of N26’s employees use N26 themselves. Sources said this caused trouble as workers could see each other’s salaries and account movements.

N26 app

“The confidence in the management of N26 that it ensures the wellbeing of the entire workforce is at an all-time low”

One source tells Finance Forward that, for example, employees felt scared the fintech might find out they had joined unions.

It is understood that a number of employees have long been asking the fintech’s founders to join one.

Calls for a works council

Earlier this month, Finance Forward revealed that N26’s workforce is demanding for better employee representation amongst its management.

In an anonymous letter to N26 employees, an unnamed employee outlined their wish to start a works council. The letter claimed that confidence in management is “at an all-time low”.

N26 says it will “respect” a works council. Many start-ups in Berlin do not currently have employee representation.

“The confidence in the management of N26 that it ensures the wellbeing of the entire workforce is at an all-time low,” the letter reads. It was published by on Worker26.com.

Employees want to first initiate a works council election. Election boards are to be determined on 13 and 14 August.

A spokesman from Verdi, a German trade union, confirms the employees’ efforts to create a works council.

The union tells Finance Forward that it is in contact with “a large number” of N26 employees. Lack of transparency in salaries, high work pressure and many temporary contracts are all points of contention, Verdi said.

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