A wave of cyberattacks across the country followed the arrival of Russian soldiers. Billions of dollars from the digital economy were destroyed by the collapse of a major exchange. After being destroyed by law enforcement, the once biggest dark-web drug market came back to life.
You can be forgiven for being confused. The episodes of global chaos that took place in 2022, each one a repeat of previous events, posed a much larger threat now.
Some of the phantoms of the Trump era seemed to disappear this year, only to be replaced by new threats and the return of old ghosts. The dictators who have long threatened the global order, their geographic neighbors, and their countries' own citizens are the same ones who have been in power for many years. India's slide into online oppression is one of the newer digital threats. One particularly loud and quixotic billionaire with a large cultlike following seemed to be doing his best to corrupt social media during the Trump era.
The most dangerous people on the internet are put together by WIRED every year. Donald Trump has not topped this list since 2015. There are a lot of new sources of disruption online. Our picks for the following year.
The man is Sam Bankman- Fried.
For its entire existence, the cryptocurrencies world has been plagued with money-laundering, theft, and scam. It was obvious that one of the most dangerous players was hiding. Sam Bankman-Fried, a poster boy for the growth of cryptocurrencies, is accused of $8 billion in fraud after the collapse of FTX. John Ray, the new CEO of FTX, says he's never seen anything like the mess the company is in. FTX invested a lot of users' money in his own trading platform, which went bankrupt. Bankman-Fried appears to have welcomed tighter government controls of the industry, which is troubling for the ills of thecryptocurrencies. He's come to represent the face of regulatory capture.
Musk is the inventor of the electric vehicle.
When Musk was focused on next- generation rockets and electric cars, his antics seemed harmless enough, or even a net positive for human progress. The dark side of Musk was put on display, and his power suddenly threatened a central institution of the internet. Musk's summary of the layoffs puts at risk the functions of a service that serves as a central conduit of digital conversation. He justified lifting the ban on neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin on the basis of free speech. In Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, a single staffer was left to police child abuse content on the platform because of the new emperor's decimating staff. Musk's stance on free speech has led to the banning of left-wing accounts on the platform. The man who attacked Nancy Pelosi's husband was Musk's gay lover. He called for the prosecution of Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical advisor. He offered a glimpse of the politics that drives his actions. Some of its doomsayers predicted that the social networking site would collapse under Musk. It might be morphing into a worse version of itself.
The leader of the free world is the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
There have been some of China's worst human rights abuses, including the mass internment of Uyghur Muslims in the western region of the country. In each of the waves of oppression, there has been an accompanying tightening of restrictions online, as the Chinese government scoured social media for any references to the protests and demanded that Uyghurs download an app that scans their phones for banned content. This year, the protests against China's zero-covids have triggered a new online crackdown, one in which even "liking" a post about protests is deemed illegal and signs of misbehavior are tracked in a regulated "credit system" that can lead to users being banned In his third term as leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi has established himself as the most powerful figure in China's government. The world's biggest population of internet users will have authoritarian power extended into their digital lives.
Modi is the prime minister of India.
India has become more like China in its suppression of protests under Modi. In the past few years, the Indian government temporarily shut down the internet in Kashmir, banned a large collection of China-based apps including TikTok, and delegated oversight of content moderation decisions on social media to a three person group. In the most appalling case of digital oppression, security researchers this year revealed that hackers who fabricated evidence on the computers of activists in the region near the city ofPune had ties to the same police who arrested those activists. The activist who died in the frame job died in jail. The other defendants are still in jail. Modi's India has shown that there is no guarantee of a free internet.
Some of the most dangerous and aggressive hackers in the world have resided at the GRU military intelligence agency. In the past seven years, the GRU groups known as Sandworm and NotPetya have wreaked havoc around the world, causing at least $10 billion in damage. The country that has long been Russia's favorite hacking victim was the focus of the GRU's attention in the year 2022. The invasion forces launched many cyberattacks designed to destroy data on Ukrainian government and corporate networks. In a case reminiscent of NotPetya, one GRU attack went so far as to disabling communications to 5,000 wind turbine across Germany. According to the Ukrainian government, the Sandworm hackers tried to launch a third attack in the country. A+ for aggressive behavior. B is for death sentence.
It seemed the story of AlphaBay was over when the dark-web market for drugs and hacked data was shut down. Cazes' top lieutenant, known only as DeSnake, took charge of AlphaBay in the summer of last year, four years after the huge bust. Since then, DeSnake has brought AlphaBay back to the top of the dark web's criminal market. He's set more rules for what can be sold on his black market than Cazes ever did, banning the sale of drugs like Fentanyl and ransomware tools. AlphaBay is still a busy criminal bazaar for hard drugs and stolen data, and it may be harder to shut it down than ever. The site has been upgraded to include the harder-to-trace Monero. He claims to be located in the former Soviet Union, which could put him far away from law enforcement than his predecessor.
There is a person named Lazarus.
North Korea continued to steal hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loot, mostly in the form of cryptocurrencies, from targets around the globe. The spree of break ins seems to be getting worse. The thieves from North Korea took in $840 million in the first five months of the year, more than the previous two years combined. $600 million of that came from a single robbery. One of the worst regimes in the world is funded by all of it, with hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps and a tendency to fire missiles at its neighbors.
The person said, "Continent."
No group illustrated the threat of ransomware better than Conti. The group hit many targets in the first months of the year. It wreaked havoc across Costa Rica, shutting down 27 government bodies and medical services and leading to a state of emergency. One of the group's disgruntled members leaked a vast trove of the group's internal communications online after they declared their support for the war in Ukraine. The company shut down in the name of it's founder. The chaos that is the business model of its hackers will not go away.
Lapsus is a word.
A group of teenagers are more dangerous than a group of ruthless hackers. The Brazilian Ministry of Health was the target of a Lapsus$ cyberattack in December of 2021. It's since carried out a number of large scale hacks of major tech firms. In the spring of last year, seven people were arrested for being members of the group. Lapsus$'s alleged "mastermind" was among those arrested. The group's hacker joyride continued even after the suspects were released.
It's called APT41.
By-the-book espionage was the focus of China's hackers for a long time. One group has proven to be the closest thing China has to North Korean state-sponsored cyber criminals. The group, which the US Department of Justice tied in an indictment to a Ministry of State Security contractor, has for years been a for-profit cyber criminal outfit. The group was linked to the theft of $20 million in Covid-19 relief funds by a Chinese state-sponsored hacking outfit. The group was responsible for dozens of espionage-focused intrusions across the world this year. The Justice Department charged seven of the group's members in 2020, but they are still on the run.