Cybercrime Predictions for 2022

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When the pandemic hit last March, it affected every line of business, even illicit ones. But as mainstream businesses have roared back to life, so have criminal operations. And as 2022 draws near, hackers and other cybercriminals are looking for new ways to infiltrate companies and disrupt operations.

The number of data breaches in 2020 was actually notably lower than 2019, falling 19%, with the number of people affected by those breaches down 66% year over year. 2021, however, has seen a substantial rebound. By the end of September, the number of businesses that had been the victim of data breaches was already 17% higher than 2020. And the Identity Theft Research Center (ITRC) said this could be a record-breaking year.

We won’t know the final numbers for 2021 until next February or so. But security experts are already warning that cybercriminals will be adjusting their tactics next year to better take advantage of the pandemic’s impact and to become even more sophisticated in their incursions.

“The sophistication and scale of cyber-attacks will continue to break records and we can expect a huge increase in the number of ransomware and mobile attacks,” says Maya Horowitz, VP Research at Check Point Software (CHKP). “Looking ahead, organizations should remain aware of the risks and ensure that they have the appropriate solutions in place to prevent, without disrupting the normal business flow, the majority of attacks including the most advanced ones.”

So what does 2022 have in store for cyber-crime? Here’s what Check Point sees as vulnerabilities in the year ahead:

Misinformation campaigns/deepfake technology

With the 2022 midterm elections looming, expect to see disinformation campaigns ramp up again. In the walkup to the 2020 elections, Check Point says there were surges of election-related domains that had malicious intent. And some hackers tried to sway public opinion with “meme camouflage,” a technique that avoids social media algorithms by flooding the sites with memes that spread the group’s desired message. Expect to see both of those see a resurgence next year.

Also, the rise of technologies that can create convincing fake audio and video media have become sophisticated enough to be weaponized. Check Point says they can be used in phishing attacks, as hackers use the technology to trick people into making financial transfers or gain access to sensitive data.

Supply chain cyber-attacks

The Solar Winds attacks, affecting 18,000 customers, was the biggest supply chain attack on 2021, but was hardly the only one. A rule of the hacking world is a successful, well-publicized attack always inspires other ones. Governments and the private sector are prioritizing these, however, which could either be seen as a challenge by hackers or send them in search of easier targets. Either way, there’s still a lot to learn about these attacks, such as how did hackers benefit from them?

Data breaches will get bigger

Data breaches are on the rise in 2021 in number, but the total number of victims so far was still nearly 30 million fewer than last year in late October. So far this year, nearly 281.5 million people have been affected by some sort of data breach. That was actually the lowest number in the past seven years, with 2018 holds the dubious honor of having the most victims, with 2.2 billion.

In 2022, though, Check Point expects the scale of breaches to increase – and they’ll cost organizations and governments more to recover. It’s the same chicken and egg issue that supply chain attacks are facing. In May 2021, insurers paid $40 million in ransom to hackers. With that kind of money flowing, more hackers are likely to attempt breaches.

Mobile malware attacks

As mobile wallet and mobile payment use increases, it’s going to become a potential playground for cybercriminals. This year, says Check Point, nearly half of U.S. companies had at least one employee download a malicious mobile app. Hackers are likely to adapt their technology to exploit the financial systems and people’s reliance on them.

Cryptocurrency scams

Digital currency is susceptible to digital manipulation. And hackers who steal Bitcoin and other cryptos could watch their hauls increase over time with no effort on their part. It’s possible, also, to steal the crypto wallet of users, researchers have found. And some people are falling for scams involving free airdropped NFTs, a technique that’s likely to grow. As crypto enthusiasm grows in the next year, so, too, will the number of hacks surrounding it.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including CNNMoney.com, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and CNBC.com.

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