Every company's worst nightmare has come true for TalkTalk. A sophisticated attack on their IT systems have compromised their operations, stolen data and to compound the misery, incurred enormous reputational damage to their brand.
The CEO, Dido Harding has been high profile in an blitz of disaster management and steps have been put in place to reassure their customers, as best they can, of TalkTalk's efforts to protect customers over the coming months. What they can't explain at time of writing, was whether the data was encrypted. What impact will this have not only on their systems, but also on any potential criminal charges against them is unknown.
The impact on their bottom line and on the shareholders' reactions is also yet to be seen
It's the worst of all worlds.
So what comfort is there for them? Is there any?
So far, in what has been made public, is a classic response. Get the CEO out there, show the face, show concern, show what's being done now and in the future. Save the essential notifications to various agencies and analysis of the problem for the back office boys, keep those as private as you can, protect your intellectual property. Deal with the press and understand their agendas, appreciate how they might report and ensure the message you want to get out there gets heard.
In the longer term there will inevitably have to be changes.
A full analysis of what went wrong might result in personnel changes: the CEO might decide to fall on her sword, particularly if it's seen over the coming days that she's not handled things well, or the axe could fall further down the operational line. On the other hand, if she has handled it well after the furore has died down she might decide that with her reputation high she can move on to bigger and better things.
The IT bods might agree that they were as protected as they could possibly have been bearing in mind the complexity of IT systems and the sophistication of hackers. They would be fooling themselves though if they stopped there for now a weak point has been identified they should reconsider their scenario planning and think beyond current circumstances.
There will be changes in how TalkTalk promote themselves, changes in the conversations they have with all types of stakeholders.
Will they do all of this though or will there just be a knee jerk reaction and the changes are inadequate so at the core nothing really happens?
TalkTalk has entered one of the worst technological nightmares for any successful and growing company. Let's hope they come out of it well. Unfortunately for so many companies, and maybe even for TalkTalk, the resolution falls well below expectations.
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