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Frankfurt’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) conducted a joint operation against the Russian Darknet Marketplace “Hydra Market.” The authorities shut down its server infrastructure and seized over $25 million worth of bitcoin.
‘Hydra Market’ is Down
According to a federal police statement, German law enforcement agents “secured the server infrastructure of the world’s largest illegal Darknet marketplace Hydra Market and thus closed it.” The authorities also confiscated 543 BTC, equaling around $25.3 million.
Today’s operation is a result of investigations conducted by the BKA and the ZIT, which at one point collaborated with their American colleagues.
The illicit marketplace was a Russian-language Darknet platform that was accessible via the Tor network since at least 2015. The main focus of the organization was on trading illegal drugs. Per the German estimations, “Hydra Market” had around 17 million customers and over 19,000 registered seller accounts. In 2020, the marketplace generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue.
Throughout the years, the platform has built a Bitcoin Bank Mixer – a service that obstructs digital transactions and makes investigations highly difficult. The market served mainly customers in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Moldova.
Other Russian Dark Web Sites Shut Down Recently
In February this year, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs halted four major illegal Darknet platforms, making more than $260 million in crypto proceeds from the sale of stolen credit cards. Those marketplaces were Ferum Shop, Trump’s Dumps, Sky-Fraud forum, and UAS Store.
All those platforms offered stolen credit cards, while buyers could pay for the items with premium gift cards, luxury goods, or digital assets. The three most employed cryptocurrencies were Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), and Litecoin (LTC).
Among the four sites, Ferum Shop is by far the biggest, accounting for $256 million in BTC from the illegal proceedings. Trump’s Dumps was second, raking in approximately $4.1 million in crypto.
Sky-Fraud forum was a popular midpoint, where criminals discussed their criminal techniques and exchanged money-laundering tips. Upon shutting it down, the Russian authorities left a message on the platform saying: “Which one of you is next?”
Subsequently, the UAS Store accounted for $3 million in digital asset revenue. The site has been particularly active since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making more than $860,000 of its income since 2020.