A surge of cyberattacks followed the invasion of Russian soldiers into Ukraine. A major crypto trading platform unexpectedly went bankrupt, wiping billions of dollars from the digital marketplace. The leading dark web drugs market that police forces had dismantled returned to its previous position at the top of the illegal online world after tenaciously reviving itself.
Even though it may seem like it’s already 2014, it’s 2022. Every instance of worldwide chaos that’s been occurring lately is a repetition of past events, but this time, the danger they impose is much more extensive and extreme.
The effects of the Trump administration and the Covid-19 pandemic finally began to diminish in 2021, but new issues surfaced in their place. Long-standing tyrants like Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un continued to threaten global stability and their citizens. Additionally, there were more intense digital dangers, like the erosion of personal freedoms in India and the boldness of cyber criminals. The Trump legacy lingered in the form of a loud, eccentric billionaire with a massive following who was seemingly trying to corrupt social media.
Annually, Tech & Geek produces a compilation of the most hazardous people on the web. Despite being the primary choice in 2015, Donald Trump was not selected as the leader of this list for the first time. Despite this, numerous new sources of disruption and chaos exist online.
Here are the most dangerous individuals for 2022:
1) Elon Musk
Elon Musk is a well-known entrepreneur, investor, and engineer who has founded multiple companies, including SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
The seemingly benign activities of Elon Musk likened to the fictional character of Willy Wonka but with a more erratic twist, seemed harmless enough when his focus was on the development of space rockets and electric cars. But when he became the owner of Twitter, his shady side was revealed, and the unpredictable power of the world’s wealthiest man began to endanger a significant part of the online realm. Thousands of Twitter’s employees were suddenly laid off, putting essential elements of the platform in jeopardy, such as its role as a primary means of digital communication.
He defended his decision to allow neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin and former president Donald Trump (who was removed from Twitter after his involvement in the January 6th riots at the US Capitol) to use the platform with an argument based on free speech. On the other hand, he has also reduced the number of content moderators, leaving a single employee responsible for addressing child abuse content on Twitter in Japan and the Asia-Pacific area. Moreover, Musk has prohibited accounts of the Antifa movement, which contradicts his stance on free speech.
A few days after the acquisition, he tweeted then deleted a false claim that the man who assaulted the husband of Nancy Pelosi in October was his homosexual partner. Later, he appeared to suggest that White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci should be prosecuted for managing the pandemic without providing further information. With these actions, Musk gave a preview of the conspiracy theories and trolling that dictated his decisions. Although some predicted that Twitter would collapse under Musk, it has not yet. However, it may be transitioning into its worst version.
2) Xi Jinping
The current President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.
President Xi Jinping has overseen some of China’s worst human rights atrocities, such as the mass incarceration of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the suppression of protestors in Hong Kong. To stop any signs of resistance, the censors have tightened their grip on social media, and the police in Xinjiang have even forced Uyghurs to download software that can search for banned materials on their phones. This year, the protests towards the country’s rigid zero-Covid lockdowns have led to an even more severe online control, where even liking a post about the protest is prohibited, and people’s behavior is monitored in a “credit system” that can lead to their expulsion from various internet platforms. Xi has already made himself the most influential figure in the Chinese government in recent years and has shown that his authoritarian power will spread into the digital lives of the nation’s enormous online population.
3) Sam Bankman-Fried
Cryptocurrency has a long history of money laundering, theft, and fraud, from Bitcoin-backed black-market drug marketplaces to stolen billions from crypto companies by hackers. The latest example of this is the downfall of the crypto exchange FTX, which Sam Bankman-Fried led. It is alleged that Bankman-Fried has committed $8 billion worth of fraud.
The consequences of this could be massive, and the complexities of mismanagement of user funds are yet to be determined – even John Ray, the company’s new CEO and Enron’s bankruptcy manager has never seen such a huge mess. Bankman-Fried has invested a huge amount of users’ cryptocurrency in his trading platform, Alameda Research, and it has also gone bankrupt. He is a troubling figure for the faults of the crypto economy since he favored tighter government regulations of the industry. He combines Elizabeth Holmes and Lehman Brothers and symbolizes regulatory capture.
In 2022, North Korea kept showing its notorious status as a major country supporting cybercrime. Its government hackers kept on stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, mainly in digital money, from around the world. According to Chainalysis, an organization that examines blockchain, North Korean hackers gained $840 million in the first five months of 2022, more than they had in the preceding two years. A total of $600 million was just taken from one robbery. All these funds are utilized to support one of the most terrible governments in the world, with hundreds of thousands of political detainees in detention camps and a habit of launching missiles over its neighboring countries.
5) Narendra Modi
The Prime Minister of India
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his BJP party, India has become more like China in suppressing physical and digital protests. In the past few years, internet access has been restricted in the region of Kashmir, a collection of China-based applications such as TikTok has been prohibited, and a three-person board has been appointed to manage social media content. In a particularly disturbing case, security researchers found that the Pune police, who had arrested certain activists, were connected to hackers who had planted false evidence on the activists’ computers. One of the activists arrested in this frame job passed away while in custody. 11 other people charged in the same case are still imprisoned. Modi’s India has shown that even in a so-called democratic nation, the internet will not be free.
In December 2021, a group of hackers called Lapsus$ initiated their attack on the Brazilian Ministry of Health in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. It targeted many tech giants like Uber, Okta, Rockstar Games, Nvidia, Microsoft, Samsung, and Vodafone. This past spring, seven people, ages 16 to 21, were arrested in the UK as they were believed to be a part of the group. The most astonishing thing was that these suspects were later freed without any charges, and the hackers continued their activities without any hindrance. These hackers being teenagers, make their actions even more dangerous.
7) Russia’s GRU
GRU is an abbreviation for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, which is the main intelligence agency of the Russian Federation.
For years, the Russian GRU military intelligence agency has been home to some of the world’s most dangerous and daring hackers. In the past seven years, Sandworm and APT28 groups have caused two blackouts in Ukraine, impacted the US 2016 election with a hack-and-leak operation, released the NotPetya malware leading to $10 billion of damage, and attempted to damage the 2018 Olympics. In 2022, due to the Russian war in Ukraine, the GRU’s focus returned to Ukraine. Numerous cyberattacks were launched to destroy data on the Ukrainian government and corporate networks, along with physical attacks from the invasion forces.
A GRU malware attack even disabled communications to 5,000 wind turbines in Germany, similar to the NotPetya attack. Sandworm also attempted a third blackout, which Ukraine’s defenders averted. Russia’s aggressive attempts are admirable, but the execution needs to be improved.
In 2017, AlphaBay, a dark-web marketplace for drugs and hacked data, and its creator Alexandre Cazes were closed, and he was found dead in a Thai prison cell. Surprisingly, four years after the bust, AlphaBay was relaunched by Cazes’ top aide, DeSnake. Since then, AlphaBay has become one of the most popular criminal markets. DeSnake has imposed more regulations than Cazes, prohibiting the sale of Fentanyl and ransomware tools. However, AlphaBay is still a thriving black market for illicit drugs and stolen information. Furthermore, DeSnake has improved security by allowing only Monero (harder-to-trace cryptocurrency), and he claims to be in the former Soviet Union, a region beyond the reach of law enforcement.
In 2022, ransomware was a global problem, and Conti was the best example. At the beginning of that year, the group attacked many businesses and governments. The worst of those attacks was in Costa Rica, where 27 government agencies and medical services were shut down, leading to a state of emergency. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Conti showed its approval of the action, resulting in a disgruntled group member posting a ton of their internal information on the web. Conti is now supposedly gone, but it’s likely that its hackers have just changed their names and continued their malicious activities.
APT41 is an advanced persistent threat (APT) that a threat actor uses to gain unauthorized access to a computer network and steal data.
For years, China’s hackers were mainly engaged in espionage activities that followed the rules. However, lately one group known as APT41, linked to the Ministry of State Security contractor Chengdu 404, has demonstrated that it is analogous to North Korea’s state-sponsored cybercriminals. This group has been double-dipping, carrying out criminal activities for its gain. This month, they were connected to the robbery of $20 million from Covid-19 relief funds; this is the first time a Chinese government-sponsored hacking group has stolen from the US government.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, APT41 is the most prolific cyberspying organization in the world, having conducted dozens of espionage infiltrations this year. Even though the Justice Department charged seven group members in 2020, they remain at large, and their combination of espionage and criminal activity is still ongoing.