Dido Harding defended the firm for not revealing the security breach until Thursday night, despite it taking place on Wednesday morning.
She admitted the firm does not yet know how many of its four million customers had been affected by what is the third in a spate of cyber attacks affecting TalkTalk customers in the last eight months.
In August the company revealed its mobile sales site was hit by a “sophisticated and co-ordinated cyber attack” in which personal data was breached by criminals.
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And in February TalkTalk customers were warned about scammers who managed to steal thousands of account numbers and names from the company’s computers.
Ms Harding told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the three attacks were “completely unrelated”, adding: “We moved as fast as we possibly can, on Wednesday lunchtime all we knew was that our website was running slowly and that we had the indications of a hacker trying to attack us.
“I can’t even tell you today exactly how many customers have been affected. We have tried to come public as fast as we can once we have got a reasonable idea of what potential data has been lost.
“I really appreciate the frustration and the worry and the concern that this causes customers - I am a customer myself - and I am very sorry for that. We are rushing to try and get that information to our customers as fast as we possibly can.”
She added: “This is a crime, a criminal has attacked TalkTalk systems and we are not the only ones, whether it is the US government, Apple, a whole host of companies. Cyber crime is something we all need to get better at defending ourselves against.”