The chief executive of TalkTalk has warned that all UK companies are under threat of a “cyber security arms race” as she revealed she called in defence experts over the hack of its website.

Dido Harding said she contacted BAE Systems, which supplies cyber security to government agencies, following the attack which saw swathes of customers’ data stolen.

She also warned any company in the UK could be vulnerable and said she still was unsure how many customers had been affected.

Police are investigating Wednesday’s attack, which TalkTalk said had affected its website rather than its “core systems”.

TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding
TalkTalk boss Dido Harding is warning of a “cyber security arms race” affecting all UK companies (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Baroness Harding told the Times: “This is a sort of cyber security arms race. Criminals are learning how to do things. One of the first calls I made on Wednesday was to BAE.”

The company has claimed data stolen in the attack would not allow criminals to plunder customers’ bank accounts, as complete credit card details were not stored in its system and account passwords were not accessed.

The peer also told the Daily Telegraph: “Do I wish I had done more? Of course I do. But would that have made a difference? If I’m honest I don’t know.

“This is happening to a huge number of organisations all the time. The awful truth is that every company, every organisation in the UK needs to spend more money and put more focus on cyber security – it’s the crime of our era.”

TalkTalk's logo on its west London headquarters
Baroness Harding called in defence experts BAE Systems after TalkTalk was targeted by hackers (John Stillwell/PA)

Scotland Yard is investigating alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA) but no arrests have been made.

Officers are investigating a ransom demand sent to the telecoms giant following the attack by someone claiming to be responsible and seeking payment. The firm said it was not sure if the message was genuine.

The latest breach is the third in a spate of cyber attacks affecting TalkTalk in the last eight months, with breaches in August and February also resulting in customers’ data being stolen.