Desjardins feels heat over insider breach; Italy builds bank bulk for digital currency

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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has slammed Desjardins over security gaps that led to insider fraud and the largest breach ever at a Canadian financial institution.

The Desjardins breach took place during more than two years and was discovered in June 2019. The incident compromised personal information for nearly 10 million people, including information that could be used for payment fraud, such as Canada's version of Social Security numbers, personal financial habits and birth dates. The bank reportedly was not aware of the breach until it was contacted by the police, Finextra reports.

The OPC's investigation found sensitive information was stored in two warehouses. While the staffer who originated the fraud did not have full access, other staffers who were in on the scam had enough access collectively to cause damage, placing stolen information on a shared hard drive. The OPC was critical of the scam's duration, 26 months, during which the bank's senior security staff had no idea the theft was taking place. The bank has since invested in new security staff and technology.

Paper chase

The new coronavirus relief package includes direct payments to Americans, but will mostly rely on existing disbursement technology.

Americans who get their tax refunds via direct deposit to their banks will get the payments as early as next week, reports CNBC, with most of the rest of the payments coming via checks in subsequent weeks. That's similar to the spring, when the rollout of coronavirus stimulus payments and checks was uneven, since about half of Americans do not have direct deposit for their tax returns.

Legislators have proposed improvements for government payments, such as a "digital dollar" or a central bank digital currency, though those are considered longer-term solutions.

In the club

Payments platform Wirex is now a principal member of Visa in Europe, giving the London fintech an easier runway to diversify its products.

Wirex completed Visa's Fast Track Program, and the membership status allows it to issue cards and more easily apply for payment licenses in different countries. Visa's existing partnership with Wirex includes a contactless cryptocurrency debit card.

Wirex earlier in 2020 partnered with Mastercard to issue a cryptocurrency card in Europe. Wirex reports a 271% increase in cryptocurrency exchanges on its platform over the past year as bitcoin and other crypto has increased in value.

Digital currency

The Italian Banking Association is testing a digital euro with a network of more than 700 Italian financial institutions.

The tests will determine if a digital euro is possible via a distributed ledger. It will also look for value-added services that can be built off of payments, reports Coindesk.

The Italian project is linked to a larger central bank digital currency initiative in Europe. The European Union hopes a digital currency can improve international payments within the EU, as well as improve access to the financial system as cash declines during the pandemic.

Opening up

Singapore fintech Finantier has been accepted into Y Combinator's Winter 2021 startup group, providing more visibility for its machine learning/API data combo that analyzes data for financial inclusion.

The company also received undisclosed pre-seed funding from a group of investors led by East Ventures, reports TechCrunch. Finantier's technology supports credit scoring and KYC for users that lack traditional data.

It's in beta with more than 20 clients, and is preparing for its formal launch in Singapore and Indonesia, with other countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Belgium on its radar.

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