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TalkTalk may be facing its biggest challenge to date. Not only does chief executive Dido Harding face tough decisions on how to maintain and maximise the internet service provider’s profit margins (it’s up against larger rivals BT and Virgin), but TalkTalk will almost certainly have to overhaul its cyber security systems and policies following the recent data breach.
As the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the cause of the cyber attack on TalkTalk’s website led officers to a working-class industrial town in Northern Ireland, TalkTalk’s management have been engaged in a face-saving mission to curb the financial and reputational damage caused to its brand. Harding has been praised for quickly fronting up to the media as the company launched its crisis management plan.
Millions were wiped off its share value after TalkTalk publicly revealed on Thursday that the bank details and personal information of its four million customers may have been accessed. Hackers reportedly distracted the company’s IT staff with a distributed denial of service attack, which forced TalkTalk’s website to shut down with the bombardment of traffic; they then initiated a breach of its firewalls to access company-specific information.
After a few days of near-apocalyptic warnings, TalkTalk was able to report that the breach was “smaller” than initially feared, and that the cyberbreach had not penetrated the firm’s core system. Therefore, customers were told that they were highly unlikely to suffer financial loss but were warned to be vigilant to receiving more targeted phishing emails and scam communications.
“The awful truth is that every company, every organisation in the UK needs to spend more money and put more focus on cyber security – it’s the crime of our era,” TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding told the Daily Telegraph.
TalkTalk is not alone; this attack is just the latest in a string of hacks that have hit some the world’s biggest brands, raising many questions about how secure information really is once it is placed on the World Wide Web.
Sony Corporation was at the centre of an international hacking scandal as a series of attacks on its systems last November culminated in an anonymous threat of September 11-style attacks on cinemas if they screened the movie studio’s new film The Interview, a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.
The film, directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was set to be opened across the US last Christmas, but the“vicious” attack forced the FBI to launch investigations, the cinema release of the movie to be dropped and further sanctions to be applied to North Korea – who secret service officials pointed to as the originators of the attack.
“Online affairs” website AshleyMadison.com also experienced a severe data breach earlier this year by the self-proclaimed Impact Team, who released the company’s stolen user databases, leaked maps of internal company servers, employee network account information, company bank account data and salary information.
The effects were grim. The secretive nature of the site, connecting married individuals who would like to have extra-marital affairs, has led the leak to be linked to several subsequent suicides, including Texas police officer Michael Gorhum who took his own life just days after his official San Antonio city email was published as part of the Ashley Madison hack.