No talk from TalkTalk

Charles Dunston’s budget ISP TalkTalk has been hacked again. Yawn. This time it’s big news on TV; the headline story in fact. Their website has been KOed for a couple of days, but it’s back online with a front page showing a different news agenda. They get their feed from AOL (also part of the Carphone Warehouse family), who probably just missed the kerfuffle; there’s no celebrity connection after all. Not yet, anyway.

If you’re a TalkTalk retail customer (or possibly a business customer – who knows how their systems interrelate and what data’s been pilfered), and you’ve used the same password with TalkTalk as any other sites, change your password on those sites NOW. The popular media is full of speculation as to what’s been compromised but they’re not mentioning passwords, presumably because TalkTalk will have told them that any passwords would have been encrypted. But if the criminals have got hold of the hashes, which is likely, it’s only a matter of time before they crack them.

How worried should customers of other ISPs be? Pretty worried, as on the serious side of the business they’re known as Opal Telecom, a significant LLU operator providing the link between the last time and the data centre for a large number of Broadband providers.

I can, of course, only speculate as to why this keeps happening to them. One reason might be related to several conversations I’ve had with people from ISPs TalkTalk has taken over along the way. Apparently they really don’t like hard stuff like UNIX/Linux, and within months of a takeover they force a switch to Microsoft before making all the UNIX people redundant. Any fool can use Microsoft – low levels of technical understanding are required, meaning cheap engineers and lower costs. But do their Microsofties actually know what they’re doing? I dare say that some of them do, and some of them don’t. But the bar for a point-and-click Microsoft house going to be lower.

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