Top 6 online threats of 2022 – and how to protect yourself from them

Conceptual art of a computer system being hacked.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s an unfortunate truth that cyber threats are a day-to-day occurrence in the digital age. And they don’t ever really go away – over time, they evolve and become more complex and intelligent. 

While security software has made great strides in preventing straight-up software exploits, one of its main focuses these days is to save you from yourself. The ‘human element’ is frequently the weakest link when it comes to online security – whether we know it or not – and online attackers are keen to exploit that fact. 

While security software is rising to this challenge and adding additional layers of protection, one of the best ways to stay protected is to understand what attackers want from you – and their latest schemes for getting it.

1. Charity scams

It’s a sad reality that there is so much heightened tragedy in the world right now, be it environmental or man made. The blanket media coverage of these events makes them impossible to ignore, and highly visible calls for help and support inevitably escalate at such times. Sadder still is that this represents a perfect opportunity for scammers. Organisations you would have had no reason to have heard of before can call, text, advertise and/or direct you to professional-looking landing pages that ask for donations. In many cases, actual well-known brands are cited or cloned to try to con you into trusting them. With no goods or services being expected in return, it’s likely that you’d never know you’d been attacked – and the bad guys know it. 

How to protect yourself: When in doubt, only give money to known, high-profile organisations and never click on dubious links to go to their payment pages – go directly to their site or search for it via a reputable search engine to be sure your details aren’t being intercepted.

2. Supply-chain scams

The Covid pandemic, catastrophic floods and war have severely disrupted both global and local supply chains, meaning that many products – especially popular ones – are often out-of-stock. This, once again, represents a great opportunity for scammers, who can create fake ads and fake stores to grab your personal details and payment information.

How to protect yourself: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Only buy from reputable stores and make sure you’re actually on the real site when you’ve clicked on a product link – double-check the web address in your browser and if in doubt, manually type the real website address in yourself.

3. Password theft

Best identity theft protection visualised via a cyber crime computer keyboard

Passwords are often the first (and sometimes only) line of defense in online security, which makes them a lucrative target for criminals. (Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s alarming just how many reputable companies have lost our log-in credentials over the years. In some instances, it’s from internal security lapses, while in others a third-party supplier can be at fault. In many instances, gargantuan lists of log-in details just appear on the internet from unknown sources – literally millions of email addresses and passwords including yours. Just check and you’ll almost-certainly find that your email address and at least one password (that you’ve ever used) has been compromised. The breach may even have happened many years ago and affected a company that doesn’t exist anymore. 

How to protect yourself: Use complicated individual passwords for each individual website and a password manager to keep track of them. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) as a second line of defence in case you get compromised.

4. Online gaming

For many people, gaming is life. But not only do gamers spend extraordinary amounts of time in their favourite games, they often spend considerable real money (or time) on acquiring valuable in-game items. The scammers have cottoned on to this and are targeting unsuspecting gamers by making false offers for loot, or hacking into gaming accounts and transferring these valuable items away. 

How to protect yourself: Treat your gaming account like your online bank account: use a unique and secure password and set up two-factor authentication.

5. Family FUD

The move to hybrid work and working from home (WFH) means that many households have invested in upgrading software, computing devices and network environments for their families. Scammers love this, as it’s a great opportunity to send out fake warnings of problems and vulnerabilities that require a fix. The ‘solution’ usually involves asking for a credit card payment to fix the issue, or downloading compromised software (which may be a modified version of actual, reputable software) that then takes control of a device. It can even encrypt your data with ransomware that demands a user pay money (quickly) for the encryption key before it gets destroyed.

How to protect yourself: Be incredibly sceptical of any such warnings, and never download software from a spurious link. Ensure other family members are not tempted to do this either. Also, if you do get infected, know that paying a ransom does not guarantee getting your data back.

6. Crypto scams

The crypto train keeps thundering forward, with adoption of cryptoassets becoming increasingly mainstream. However, the scammers are all too aware of the money flooding into the industry and, in many instances, have considerably more experience compared to investors. Scams come in many forms, with the most-common being Ponzi schemes, fake investments and fake giveaways.

How to protect yourself: Only deal with reputable companies and always check you’re on the actual site (not a fake mock-up). Use 2FA for log-ins and be incredibly sceptical of giveaways and crypto advertisements – especially if they're from a well-known celebrity.

How Norton 360 can help

Norton 360 across multiple devices.

Norton 360 delivers protection across multiple devices. (Image credit: Norton)
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Norton 360 is the renowned security provider’s flagship suite, and it’s available in multiple editions to suit every budget and requirement. In many instances, Norton 360 can sniff-out malware  and help protect you – even if it’s a previously unknown threat. All versions offer the core anti-spyware, antivirus, malware and ransomware protection along with a smart firewall, free cloud backup and a password manager. Norton even offers a Virus Protection Promise for subscribers that states, “If a Norton expert is unable to remove the virus from your device, then you may receive a refund based on the actual price paid for the current term of your qualifying subscription.”

Also available in the Norton 360 Deluxe and Norton 360 Premium editions are features like additional cloud backup storage, access to a secure VPN, and webcam protection to ensure attackers can’t see what you’re up to. They also provide access to phone and tablet (Android and iOS) online protection.

The Norton 360 Deluxe version, for example, adds protection for additional devices, more backup space plus Dark Web monitoring which routinely checks whether your credentials are being circulated in nefarious, hard-to-find, online locations that criminals inhabit. There are also parental controls to protect your kids and manage their online behaviour. The Norton 360 Premium product pushes online backup up to a whopping 250GB of storage space.

Whichever level of protection you select, buying into Norton 360 will not just protect the data on your devices but help make sure behavioural risks (whether they stem from you, your family or an attacker) are mitigated using the best protection on the market.