Cybercrime spiked in 2022 — and this year could be worse


Last year saw a massive spike in cybercrime, with some types of malicious digital activity rising by as much as 87%. It doesn’t bode well — but there were a couple of relative bright spots.

That information comes from a new report published by cybersecurity firm SonicWall. It makes for interesting reading, especially since one of the biggest rises came from an unusual source — and one of the most feared types of malware saw a hefty drop.

A digital depiction of a laptop being hacked by a hacker.
Digital Trends Graphic

Among the statistics, SonicWall notes that there were 112.3 million attacks on Internet of Things (IoT) devices in 2022. That’s up from 60.1 million attacks in 2021 — an 87% increase. Worse, that figure is just an average, and SonicWall’s report explains that some regions were hit even harder, with North America experiencing a 145% explosion in IoT attacks last year. That large increase suggests cybercriminals are increasingly turning to IoT devices where they may have preferred other attack types in the past.

Another notable upsurge came to zero-day vulnerabilities. These are attacks that have been discovered by attackers before the exploited software vendor even knows about them, making them especially dangerous.

The number of zero-day threats active in the wild rose 150% in 2022, according to SonicWall; while the actual number does not seem huge (an increase from 14 to 35), each one could be potentially devastating since the vendor is not even aware of them, slowing down the time until a patch can be released.

Will 2023 be worse?

malwarebytes laptop

There were a handful of more positive notes sounded in the report. For instance, encrypted attacks — those hidden using secure networks — fell 28%, from 10.1 million to 7.3 million. But that disguises some eyebrow-raising figures, including the claim that encrypted attacks on governments spiked an enormous 887%. While the number of governmental attacks may be low overall (helping to produce the massive percentage rise), the increasing sophistication of those malware strikes is concerning.

What about ransomware? The good news is that usage of this notorious tactic dropped 21% compared to 2021. That bad news is that the 493.3 million ransomware attacks was higher than the figures recorded in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, meaning it is far from irrelevant.

While there were drops in some areas, the overall picture is of an increasing threat level from cybercrime. Most categories of attack, from cryptocurrency-related PC hijacking to intrusion attempts, grew in number. The overall number of malware attacks hit 5.5 billion, up 2% from last year.

If those trends continue, 2023 could be a record-busting year for cybercrime. That means it’s more important than ever to outfit your computer with one of the best antivirus apps you can find and ensure you practice good digital security. Cybercrime may be on the rise, but you don’t have to fall victim to it.

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