German Authorities Seize Hydra Servers, Shut Down Largest Russian-Language Darknet Market [Updated]
German authorities announced today that they have taken down the German servers of Hydra Market, the largest Russian-speaking darknet market, and shut it down. They also confiscated 23 million euros (about $25 million) in Bitcoin. The steps follow an investigation with the participation of German and US law enforcement, which began in August 2021. According to German authorities, the market had 17 million users in April 2022.
News of the dismantling of Hydra reached illicit Russian-speaking communities in the early hours of April 5 and sparked heated discussions about the true state of the market, its future and its potential replacement, given that its size was unprecedented and that an increasing number of threat actors have relied on the criminal services offered on Hydra. Hydra administrators reportedly claimed the market is undergoing “technical works” and did not acknowledge the withdrawal.
Hydra was primarily known for facilitating the illicit sale of narcotics, but also the laundering of cryptocurrency, false documents, and other illicit digital assets. Active since 2015, Hydra opened up as a less adversarial option to its now-defunct competitor, Russian Anonymous Marketplace (aka “RAMP”), which was known for eliminating its competition via DDoS attacks and doxxing the Internet. operator. After RAMP was dismantled, Hydra built networks in all regions of Russia and helped vertically integrate aspects of drug production and trade. Hydra’s annual transaction volumes have grown from $9.4 million in 2016 to $1.37 billion in 2020.
Last year, Flashpoint and Chainalysis published a white paper on Hydra’s role in the global cryptocurrency laundering scheme, which you can read here. The article analyzed the growing amount of illicit funds passing through wallets associated with Hydra and how the market has adapted to increasingly stringent KYC and AML roles on cryptocurrency exchanges by vendors offering various withdrawal ranging from transfers using compromised P2P exchange accounts, to “hidden treasure”. withdrawal, where the money is hidden in a specific location, often underground.
Analysts observed cryptocurrency withdrawal offers on Hydra until the end of March, even as Western sanctions drastically limited conventional financial flows to accounts in Russia.
Threat Actors Respond to Hydra Shutdown
Reacting to the news, users from several illicit Russian-speaking communities tried to guess what the future held for them. As of April 5, most threat actors in Flashpoint datasets who expressed an opinion appeared to believe Hydra was over and done with, even as admins pledged to get the market up and running within days. A minority took a wait-and-see approach, pointing out that it was unclear whether Hydra administrators had also lost access to server backups, but most threat actors expressed the view that a large number of small shops will replace the big market. Some have also pointed out that a pervasive fear that authorities or malicious actors could use the takedown to set up fake versions of Hydra to track down former users and vendors, could hurt interest in the market, even if it is reconfigured.
Recommended: Cyber’s great exit: why the number of illicit marketplaces is decreasing
The future of Hydra
Pointing in this direction is the fact that analysts have observed stores previously active on Hydra relocating their activities exclusively to Telegram. Decentralized marketplaces based on Telegram bringing together several sellers are another possibility. Televend, a recently shut down service, did just that. However, due to the existence of the aforementioned networks that helped Hydra become the dark web’s largest market, this disintegration is certainly not a done deal.
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German Authorities Seize Hydra Servers, Shut Down Largest Russian-Language Darknet Market [Updated] appeared first on Flashpoint.
*** This is a syndicated blog from the Security Bloggers Network of Blog – Flashpoint written by Jonathan Zalman. Read the original post at: https://www.flashpoint-intel.com/blog/hydra-marketplace-servers-seized-by-germany/