Russian soldiers poured into Ukraine, accompanied by a wave of cyberattacks across the country. A major cryptocurrency exchange imploded and declared bankruptcy, vaporizing billions of dollars from that digital economy. The once-biggest dark-web drug market—after being demolished by law enforcement—clawed back to the top of the online underworld after doggedly resurrecting itself.
It’s not 2014, though you could be forgiven for being confused. No, all these episodes of global chaos occurred in 2022, each one a rerun of previous events, but now with the threat they posed vastly multiplied in scale.
This year, some of the phantoms of the Trump era and the Covid-19 pandemic finally seemed to recede—only to make room for new threats and the return of ghosts of years past. The same dictators—Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un—who have long threatened the global order, their geographic neighbors, and their countries’ own citizens. Fresher digital threats like India’s slide into online repression, and brazen cybercriminals displaying more ruthlessness than ever. And then there were some vestiges of the Trump era that seemed to have hung on, such as one particularly loud and quixotic billionaire with a large, cultlike following, seemingly doing his best to singlehandedly corrupt social media.
Every year, WIRED assembles a list of the most dangerous people on the internet. For the first time since 2015, Donald Trump doesn’t top this list. But there’s no shortage of new sources of instability and disruption online. Here are our picks for 2022.
For its entire existence, the cryptocurrency world has been plagued with money laundering, theft, and scams, from Bitcoin-powered dark-web drug markets to billions of dollars stolen from crypto companies by rogue hackers. But one of the most dangerous players in the crypto economy, it seems, was hiding in plain sight. In the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, a poster boy for cryptocurrency’s growing legitimacy, Sam Bankman-Fried, now stands accused of more than $8 billion in fraud. The rippling fallout for the cryptocurrency economy could be far larger, and the tangled dealings and mismanagement of user funds in…