On Tuesday, April 5th, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) announced the seizure and closure of the world’s largest Russian language illegal dark web marketplace, Hydra.
Hydra, a Russian-language marketplace operating on the Darknet, has been shut down by German authorities after Germany’s Central Office conducted an extensive investigation for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT). The US law enforcement authorities also participated in the investigation.
The investigation was launched in August 2021. The marketplace, identified as Hydra Market, had 17 million customers and 19,000 seller accounts at the time of its shut down by the German police, which is probably the highest turnover among illegal underground marketplaces.
The Frankfurt prosecutor’s cybercrime office and the federal criminal police in Germany also confirmed securing the site’s servers. It is worth noting that Hydra made $1.35 billion in revenue in 2020, according to the police.
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Bitcoin Seized in the Operation
In a press release, investigators revealed that they not only shut down Hydra’s German servers but also seized bitcoin worth $25 million/€23 million. Furthermore, they stated that several suspects are currently under investigation. The unidentified suspects are allegedly operating “criminal trading platforms on the internet on a commercial basis” and selling narcotics and other illegal substances.
Bitcoins amounting to currently the equivalent of approximately €23 million were seized, which are attributed to the marketplace.
Hydra was launched in 2015. It evolved into the world’s largest Russian-language dark web marketplace and gave fierce competition to the now deactivated Russian Anonymous Marketplace or RAMP.
Hydra is known for its high-traffic narcotics market. Apart from selling drugs, Hydra operators offered miscellaneous services such as forging documents, intercepting data, and other illicit digital services.
The marketplace also offered digital transactions obfuscation services via regional exchanges and money laundering tactics. Between 2018 and 2020, the marketplace observed an astonishing growth of 634%. It attracted “high-profile cybercriminals, including the DarkSide gang responsible for the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.”
In its May 2021 report, Flashpoint stated that cybercriminals used Hydra to carry out illegal sales of stolen credit cards, SIM cards, and counterfeit IDs and documents.
At the time of publishing this article, the main and backup domains for Hydra were offline displaying a “502 Bad Gateway” error message.