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TalkTalk cyber attack: Police told telecoms company to keep hack secret, says chief executive

Baroness Harding says Scotland Yard advised firm not to warn customers so detectives could track down culprits

David Wilcock
Tuesday 15 December 2015 21:45 GMT
Five people have been arrested in connection with October's attack.
Five people have been arrested in connection with October's attack. (Getty)

Police advised TalkTalk against warning its customers about a cyber attack that resulted in personal data being stolen, the firm’s chief executive says.

Baroness Harding said Scotland Yard told the telecoms company to keep the attack secret – including a “credible” ransom demand – so detectives could try to find the culprits.

It comes after TalkTalk was criticised, including by the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, following the attack on the morning of 21 October for its failure to warn four million customers until late the following day.

Lady Harding also told MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee there was a “risk” other firms suffered a similar attack and ransom demand – but did not reveal it because legislation does not require them to do so.

She said: “I was clear by the lunchtime on the Thursday [22 October] that the sensible thing to do to protect my customers was to warn all of them because I could help make them safer. The advice we received from the Metropolitan Police was not to tell our customers.

“I totally understand why the police wanted us to stay quiet, because they have got a different objective – they want to catch the criminals.”

TalkTalk revealed it had been the subject of a cyber attack later that day. Five people, including four teenagers, have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Press Association

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