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How to Protect Yourself from Hacking, Ransomware and Social Engineering

Unbeknownst to some, we are now going through the 4th Industrial Revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0. Facilitated in large part by the many technological developments over the past few years, part of a trend collectively known as the Internet of Things (IoT), we are witnessing the merging of mechanical and digital, the likes of which have never been experienced on the face of the planet.

This trend, as many of us are aware, brings with it an increase in automation, remote control and artificial intelligence, and with that, an overall increase in efficiency. Nevertheless, this increase in digitization also opens the door to all kinds of cyber-attacks such as hacking, ransomware, and social engineering - all of which have the potential to bring even the mightiest of corporations to their knees. This article highlights a few of the ways you can protect yourself and your organization from these very real threats.


Hacking, also known as cyber-attacking, is a threat that does not only affect large, multinational corporations. Small to mid-sized businesses are at risk too, and these risks can affect your customers, your reputation, and critically, your financial systems. Cyber-attacks can present themselves in multiple forms such as phishing, malware, and system hacking, to name a few.

Your first line of defense against these attacks is to encrypt your data and communications. Most operating systems have full-disk encryption tools already built-in, and it shouldn't take more than a few minutes for the entire process to be in place.

Your second line of defense is to secure your hardware physically. Hackers may attempt to steal your equipment and access your data that way. Last but not least is to encourage a company culture that's focused on security. Keep yourself and your staff up to date on all security-related issues and what measures are necessary to keep your data safe.


As its name would suggest, ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects your computer and restricts your access until you pay a ransom. Ransomware usually finds its way onto someone's computer either through phishing emails or by accessing infected websites. Malware is downloaded without the user's knowledge or consent, infecting the computer in the process.

Small businesses affected by ransomware may experience a temporary or permanent loss of information, disruption of daily operations, or financial losses. To minimize the risk, you should employ a data backup or recovery plan, install the latest updates and patches, use updated anti-virus software, and exercise caution before when opening or clicking links within questionable emails or accessing unverified websites.

If you do fall prey to ransomware and do not have a data backup system in place, you are left with two choices - to pay or not to pay. If you don't pay, you'll be doing society a favor by discouraging the practice. But by doing so, you'll also risk losing your data. If you do decide to pay the ransom, you'll possibly get your data back, but you’ll also be flagged as a "ransom payer" by hackers and risk being targeted again in the future.

Social Engineering

In short, social engineering is a way of manipulating people into giving up confidential information. Unlike other cyber-attacks, social engineering exploits our inclination to trust others, rather than actually hacking accounts or software. The notorious Nigerian Prince scam is an example of social engineering. Receiving an email from a 'friend' telling you that they were robbed in a foreign country and needed some urgent cash, might be another.

Social engineering scams take a multitude of forms, and there’s no limit to the imagination here. But the thing they all have in common is that they ask you to do something out of the ordinary, such as giving up financial or security information, urging you to send money, open a link or download a file, etc. although in the moment, it may appear to be a familiar or even routine task.

To protect yourself from these attacks, you should be skeptical about all messages that you receive. Conduct your research and make sure that they are coming from a trustworthy source. NEVER give up your password or financial information to anyone, keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up-to-date, and set your spam filters to the highest setting.


There is no such thing as being too safe when it comes to online threats. The best way to protect yourself and your data is to keep up-to-date on issues around online security and employ all suggested measures. Maintain the security of your systems with software updates, patches and good security hygiene.

For information or advice, or to keep yourself up to date on these issues, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, email us at or listen to the World-Class Investigator podcast at

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