Ex-TalkTalk chief grilled by MPs on suitability to chair NHS Improvement

From heading one cyber-attack victim to another

Former TalkTalk Group chief executive Dido Harding

Dido Harding, the woman at the helm during UK ISP TalkTalk's 2015 mega breach, was yesterday grilled about her move to chair NHS Improvement, the body responsible for overseeing Blighty's health service and also famously clobbered by a huge cyber attack.

Speaking in front of MPs in a pre-appointment hearing for her forthcoming role as chairman of NHS Improvement, Harding was asked about her suitability for the appointment, specifically given her handling of the TalkTalk cyber attack.

The security breach affected 157,000 customers' personal details and cost the biz £42m. In February this year, Harding stepped down as chief exec.

She said: "One of the reasons why my name is inextricably linked with cyber attacks is because at TalkTalk we made a choice to warn our customers very quickly after the attack." She said she was most criticised in the business press for speaking out too early and saying "I don't know" a few times on the Today Programme.

"I actually think I did exactly the right thing there and what's more, TalkTalk customers told us after the event they thought I, and the company, had done the right thing."

She said she would have liked to speak out earlier, but was waiting on the Metropolitan Police before deciding whether to immediately warn customers. "The police wanted us to keep quiet," she said.

However, Ben Bradshaw MP noted that when the attack happened, TalkTalk's share price went down 30 per cent, and when Harding announced her departure it increased by 10 per cent.

"[The public] may take from that the judgement of the market was that you weren't a great success. And that your new desire to do good and work in the public service – a cynic might look at this and think, well, she wasn't going to hack it at the top level in the private sector, so she is looking for a cushy government job," he said.

Harding replied she did not think the role was a cushy job, and that the company had doubled in value since she took the reins more than seven years ago.

During the hearing, Harding was also asked if she intended to give up her private health insurance if she took the role, to which she replied she would not. ®


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