Germany Has Shut Down The Russian Illegal Darknet Marketplace ‘Hydra’
Germany has shut down the world’s biggest cybercrime forum the Russian illegal darknet marketplace called 'Hydra Market', confiscating 543 Bitcoins with a total value of around $25.2 million. The authorities shut down the server infrastructure for Hydra which is a huge marketplace on Dark Web for drugs, stolen credit card information and other illegal goods. Authorities say they have been investigating the illicit market’s activities since last August, with the help of several U.S. agencies, including the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Shortly after the German action was announced, the US Treasury issued sanctions against Hydra "in a coordinated international effort to disrupt proliferation of malicious cybercrime services, dangerous drugs, and other illegal offerings available through the Russia-based site. In the past six months, many high-profile darknet markets have shut down but Hydra was seemingly impervious to police attempts to stop it.
Founded in 2015, A Russian-language darknet marketplace, Hydra has been one of the largest sources of online illicit trade for several years now. Available exclusively through the Tor network, Hydra was a bazaar that brokered sales of narcotics, fake documents, cryptocurrency-laundering services, and other digital goods. The site, which has existed since at least 2015, had approximately 17 million customers and some 19,000 listed sellers prior to its shutdown. During its reign, Hydra was known as a hub for drug trafficking and obscuring the origins of cash, and its customers were based largely in eastern European states like Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, according to the blockchain analysis firm Elliptic. Since it launched, Hydra has seen upwards of $5 billion in Bitcoin transactions, Elliptic assesses. Its sales amounted to at least 1.23 billion euros in 2020 alone.
The site was written in Russian, with sellers located in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and surrounding countries. It took many months to locate which firm might be hosting Hydra in Germany. Ultimately it was found to be a so-called 'bullet-proof hosting' company. A bullet-proof hosting company is one that does not audit the websites or content it is hosting, and will happily host criminal websites and avoid police requests for information on customers.
A seizure banner has been published on the marketplace’s website.
The secret “darknet” includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users. Such networks have faced increased pressure from international law enforcement after a boom in usage during the coronavirus pandemic. A German-led police sting also last year took down the notorious darknet marketplace DarkMarket, which had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors worldwide.
The shuttering of the site leaves a tremendous vacuum in the cybercrime world, one that no doubt will be filled either by the same operators as they rebuild their empire or a new enterprising entrant. Overall, German actions are a significant success for law enforcement, demonstrating that cybercriminals operating within Russia and surrounding countries are not immune to enforcement action. This news is likely to have a significant impact on the Russian cybercrime community, and law enforcement should be praised for such a notable success.
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