TalkTalk webiste shut down
TalkTalk shut down its website, giving limited information Getty

TalkTalk, already accused of lacking proper customer service, was forced to warn its four million customers on Thursday evening (22 October) that their details were at risk of being hacked. Credit card and banking details, names and addresses and account information are all thought to be vulnerable.

They already have a poor image and a poor reputation in the marketplace. They have always been known as cheap but not particularly good.
Jacques de Cock

Although it bounced up, the firm's share price fell by more than 10% in the first hour after the opening bell of trading. Jacques de Cock, a PR expert working at the London School of Marketing, told IBTimes UK that the telecom giant didn't handle the crisis well, but it is unlikely to lose a lot of customers.

"They mismanaged this leak," de Cock said. "That seems to be the trend in the last few crises. What happens is they show contrition. They share the pain but they seem to share the panic, which is not reassuring. It's not what you expect from your company, you want reassurance and professionalism."

This was the third major leak in the last year and a half at TalkTalk, yet its share price climbed to new highs earlier this year. This leak and undoubtedly the way the firm treated the leak, erased all gains made in 2015.

For example, the firm completely closed its website. "It barely had any information about what to do as a customer," de Cock said. "If they wanted to protect the personal data, they could have closed the database, so that people couldn't change their personal data, but leave other parts of the website open."

After the head of TalkTalk, one of the UK's biggest phone and broadband providers, said she has received a ransom demand from someone claiming to be responsible for a "significant and sustained cyberattack" on the company's website, further panic was spread.

It was NatWest who told concerned TalkTalk customers with a bank account with the bank that their money and credit card details were not directly at risk. TalkTalk failed to make that clear on their website.

The problems, de Cock claims, go back a long way. "When they launched, they couldn't get the system up quickly enough and so they have had a series of customer mismanagement in the past, all the way back to 2010, when they got fined by Ofcom," de Cock said.

"They already have a poor image and a poor reputation in the marketplace," he added. "They have always been known as cheap but not particularly good." Yet, as most customers look at prices when it comes to getting phone and broadband subscriptions, he said the current crisis was unlikely to create a major problem with the firm's customer base.