Bust of Hydra Darknet Market Puts an End to $1.3 Billion in Criminal Trade

by | Apr 14, 2022

The Hydra darknet market had been responsible for over one billion in criminal activity annually in recent years and was the largest in the world by traffic. It’s now finished for good as German police have seized its infrastructure and identified at least one of its administrators.

The market was mostly focused on drug sales and money laundering, but also facilitated some cyber crime trade. It had been online since 2015 and was thought to have made about $5 billion in transaction fees over its lifetime.

German federal police and cyber crime teams take down Hydra darknet market

The Hydra darknet market was primarily a gathering point for criminal traffic in Eastern Europe, particularly for arranging drop-offs and pick-ups of illegal drugs that were hidden in remote locations with geotags. It was also a major source of money laundering for those looking to run illicit cryptocurrencies through a coin mixing service and exchange them for rubles, sometimes by arranging physical drop-offs in the same manner that drugs were traded. While it was not as big of a nexus for hackers, it did have sections that specialized in the selling of files and resources obtained in data breaches.

The United States also took action in connection with this bust, issuing charges against a site operator and putting sanctions on a Russian crypto exchange called Garantex that has some 100 accounts that allegedly had been doing business on the Hydra darknet market and potentially had involvement with ransomware attacks.

The shutdown of Hydra is considered a substantial victory for online safety, but cybersecurity experts caution that the majority of the people involved remain at large and will likely reform under a new name to continue the same illicit activities. With a cyber crime market projected to top $10 trillion by 2025, there is ample incentive for ambitious operators to start up their own services and there will likely be a replacement that compares to the Hydra darknet market in size at some point.

Hydra darknet market was not just the largest of these forums available in contemporary times, but is thought to be the largest ever available on the internet (topping names like Agora and Silk Road in total traffic). The operators made money by taking a cut of the illicit activities arranged through the site, which had about 19,000 registered sellers and about 17 million users at the time it was shut down. It raked in about $1.35 billion in 2021, with German police recovering about $25 million in Bitcoin from the seized resources.

Ongoing investigations on criminals linked to Hydra darknet market

Anyone that visits the Hydra darknet market site will now see a notification about the takedown from Germany’s federal police agency. The authorities have said that investigations will continue as information from the seized assets is scrutinized to potentially uncover the identities of links to other operators and the criminals that offered products through it.

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