The Most Harmful Folks on the Web in 2023


In 2023, the world has felt prefer it was balanced on a precipice. A United States presidential election looms, with a resurgent candidate that threatens to deliver with him all of the chaos of 2016 and 2020. Synthetic intelligence developed so shortly that it appeared to have all of a sudden sprung into being, heralding huge societal promise and disruption simply across the bend of its exponential curve. And the world’s richest man continued to make use of his energy to push for a extra reckless tech world, from free-for-all social media and oversold assisted-driving options to AI with a “rebellious streak.”

Within the midst of that uncertainty, a brand new struggle between Israel and Hamas added extra atrocities alongside the slow-burning horrors of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These wars have echoed throughout the web in propaganda, hate speech, and cyberattacks that triggered widespread real-world results. Chinese language state-sponsored hackers, in the meantime, sowed the seeds for a future cyberwar, and ransomware gangs resurged. It was a banner 12 months for chaos, current and impending, and all mirrored within the digital mirror.

Annually, WIRED assembles an inventory of essentially the most harmful folks, teams, and organizations on the web—each those that deliberately endanger harmless folks and people whose actions, no matter their intent, destabilize the world as we all know it in myriad methods. Right here, in no explicit order, are our picks for 2023.

Elon Musk

A 12 months in the past, it might need nonetheless been truthful to treat Elon Musk as an excellent technologist with occasional harmful, trollish tendencies. In 2023, these tendencies appeared to take over his public id. Twitter, now renamed X because of Musk’s branding whims, this 12 months invited again conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and even amplified one account’s antisemitic statements. When advertisers complained, Musk managed in a single dialog to each apologize for that blunder and inform them, “Go fuck your self.”

Earlier than that, in July, Musk had mentioned that his social media platform’s advert income had fallen by half—all of which calls into query whether or not this once-central platform for on-line dialog will survive Musk’s reign, and in what kind.

Within the midst of that meltdown, Musk’s new startup xAI launched Grok, an AI chatbot Musk celebrated for having fewer guardrails than OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Musk faces requires an SEC investigation for his feedback about how monkeys died in experiments carried out by his mind implant startup Neuralink. And in mid-December, Tesla recalled almost each mannequin of its automobiles offered within the US to repair an Autopilot function. The Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration discovered that Tesla’s security measures for assuring that drivers paying consideration—which many little doubt weren’t, maybe thanks partly to Musk’s personal descriptions of the assisted-driving function—have been insufficient.

5 years in the past, WIRED put Musk’s face on the quilt with a narrative that described his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character. Today, it is changing into clearer which aspect of that cut up character dominates.


In 2023, ransomware resurged. In keeping with cryptocurrency agency Chainalysis, it seems to be on monitor to be the second-worst 12 months on report when it comes to whole extortion funds collected by the ransomware trade’s coercive gangs of hackers. However maybe no group did extra harm this 12 months than the folks behind the Cl0p malware.

In Might, the Cl0p gang started exploiting a zero-day vulnerability within the MOVEit file switch software program and used it to hold out a surprising spree of intrusions throughout greater than 2,000 organizations, in line with ransomware-focused safety agency Emsisoft. A single sufferer, medical agency Maximus, misplaced management of the info of at the least 8 million folks within the breach. The hackers stole knowledge from the state authorities of Maine on one other 1.3 million. In whole, at the least 62 million folks have been affected, and Cl0p’s hackers stay at massive.


If Cl0p have been essentially the most ruthless ransomware hackers of the 12 months, Alphv, often known as Black Cat, have been definitely in shut competition. The group, which has ties to the hackers who carried out the 2021 cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, gained a brand new degree of notoriety in September when it focused MGM Resorts Worldwide, shutting down laptop methods throughout the resort and on line casino chain and finally doing $100 million in harm, by MGM’s estimate. Extra broadly, the FBI says that Alphv has compromised over a thousand organizations and extracted greater than $300 million in ransoms.

In mid-December, the FBI introduced that it had seized the dark-web web site the place Alphv publishes its victims’ stolen knowledge. Hours later, the location reappeared, and Alphv defiantly introduced it had “unseized” it and would not abide by a rule to not goal essential infrastructure methods. The location was quickly taken down once more. However on condition that no members of the group have been arrested and even indicted in absentia, its chaos will doubtless proceed.


No occasion of 2023 has shaken geopolitics as all of a sudden and shockingly as Hamas’ atrocities towards civilians in Southern Israel on October 7. The assaults, through which Hamas militants killed 1,200 folks and took a whole lot of hostages, instantly triggered a struggle that threatens to destabilize the area. It has additionally shaken the tech world, the place it has raised questions in regards to the digital applied sciences which have enabled Hamas, from the tens of millions of {dollars} the group raised by way of cryptocurrency to its channels on Telegram, the place it distributes propaganda and movies of its violence. When ISIS got here to prominence in 2014, it compelled each know-how platform on the planet to query whether or not and the way it enabled extremist violence. Now, a decade later, a brand new spherical of horrific bloodletting exhibits how that reckoning continues.


Regardless of sanctions, indictments, and even a $10 million bounty, Russia’s crew of hyper-aggressive army intelligence hackers generally known as Sandworm are nonetheless on the market—and nonetheless energetic. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds towards its third brutal 12 months, in actual fact, they seem to have turned their focus to that battle.

This 12 months, Sandworm was revealed to have carried out a third blackout cyberattack towards a Ukrainian electrical utility, this time within the midst of a Russian air strike hitting the identical metropolis. It later penetrated Ukrainian army communications in a extra conventional espionage-focused effort to realize a bonus throughout Ukraine’s counteroffensive. And proof factors to Sandworm’s accountability for a cyberattack simply this month that hit the telecom Kyivstar, taking out web and cellular communications for tens of millions amid one other collection of strikes. The group, in different phrases, continues to earn its repute because the Kremlin’s most harmful hackers.

Volt Hurricane

For years, the cybersecurity neighborhood has requested itself who could be the “Sandworm of China.” This 12 months offered maybe the closest factor but to a solution. The hacker group dubbed Volt Hurricane by Microsoft was revealed in Might to have planted malware in energy grid networks throughout the continental US and Guam, in some circumstances with an obvious eye towards controlling the move of electrical energy to US army bases. Extra just lately, The Washington Publish revealed that Volt Hurricane’s targets have prolonged to other forms of essential infrastructure too, from an oil and fuel pipeline to a significant West Coast port and a Hawaiian water utility.

Whereas the intentions of the group and its overseers are nonetheless removed from clear, cybersecurity and geopolitical analysts more and more see it as laying the groundwork to disrupt key US methods within the occasion of a disaster—reminiscent of China invading Taiwan.

Donald Trump

Final 12 months, for the primary time since 2015, Donald Trump was not included on this listing. Hope you loved the break!

Lower than 11 months out from the 2024 US presidential election, Trump leads Republican main polls by a large margin. He has used his rekindled relevance to launch disturbing assaults on his perceived enemies, largely from his personal right-wing-dominated Reality Social platform.


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