U.S.-German Joint Operation Seizes $25m Worth of Bitcoin, Shuting Down Russian Darkened Marketplace Hydra


In collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department, German authorities announced Tuesday that they managed to shut down the Hydra market, the most prominent Russian darknet market, and consequently seized $25 million in Bitcoin from the marketplace.

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The Frankfurt Main Public Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), and Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) managed the seizure after they secured the server infrastructure of the site. However, no one is under arrest, according to the official.

The authorities described the Hydra market, a Russian-language site, as the world’s longest-running and largest illegal dark web marketplace.

“Today, the German Federal Criminal Police, in coordination with U.S. federal law enforcement, seized the servers of Hydra Market,” the Justice Department mentioned in a statement.

Hydra darknet marketplace specialized in drug dealing. The market has been dealing with the trades of illegal narcotics, intercepted data, as well as forged documents, and digital services.

The Federal Police found 17 million customers and 19,000 seller accounts registered on the marketplace at the time of seizure.

The authorities said that Hydra Market probably had the highest turnover among illegal marketplaces globally. According to the police statement, the Hydra site made sales worth more than €1.23 billion ($1.35 billion) in revenue in 2020.

The authorities also disclosed that the Russian-language marketplace had an in-built Bitcoin privacy mixer service that made tracing of digital transactions extremely difficult for law enforcement agents. The police stated that they have pulled down the site from the internet.

Inside the Dark Web

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Since 2015, Hydra Market has been operating its business and was accessible via the Tor browser. The site became the top Russian-language darknet marketplace after Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP) was shut down in 2017.

Hydra had a notorious association with sellers and resellers of stolen data and ransomware. It was the largest darknet market by several orders of magnitude and featured thousands of listings for all standard categories of products. It was believed that Hydra had some kind of connection with the Russian government. The market’s continuous, uninterrupted operation for over five years might have been sustained by backing from the government.

The entire market was written in Russian language. Nations serviced by Hydra vendors include Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Moldova.

Hydra was a Bitcoin-only market and used the standard forum escrow payment system. The market made billions of dollars in revenue every year and used a system of dead drops to sell drugs across Russia and its neighbouring former soviet countries.

Hydra Market had plans to expand to Europe and the USA, but it was only offering support in Russia to former soviet countries.

The seizure of the Hydra darknet market followed crackdowns of many other darknet markets over the past few months, including Trump’s Dumps, Sky-Fraud Forum, Ferum Shop, and UAS Store. Its investigation began in August 2021 and also involved U.S. authorities.

 

Image source: Shutterstock


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