Dismantling of a major Russian “darknet” platform

published on Tuesday 05 April 2022 at 22:00

The “largest” sales platform of the global “darknet”, called “Hydra Market”, and has been operating in the Russian language since 2015, has been dismantled and bitcoins worth 23 million euros have been seized, German justice announced on Tuesday .

“The servers of the largest + darknet + market in the world have been seized and 543 bitcoins with a total value of approximately 23 million euros have been secured,” said a press release from the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Security Investigations (BKA). ).

The “darknet” is a parallel version of the Internet, where the anonymity of users is guaranteed.

Investigators suspect that the “Hydra Market” platform, with approximately 17 million customers, is being used for criminal activity and money laundering through more than 19,000 merchant accounts.

In 2020 alone, the “Hydra Market” platform achieved at least 1.23 billion euros in sales, making it “the highest-turnover illegal market in the world”, according to the communicated.

The Russian-language site accessible through the Tor network was mainly used for drug trafficking, stolen data and forged documents.

A banner was placed on the Hydra website on Tuesday announcing the seizure by the police, authorities said.

An advanced service called the “bitcoin bank mixer” was used to hide digital financial transactions involving cryptocurrencies, making the investigation much more difficult, the BKA said.

The investigations started in 2021, but the identities of the operators and administrators responsible for the platform are currently unclear.

– Virtual addresses –

The operation was conducted in conjunction with US authorities. “Together with our German partners, we have seized the infrastructure of the largest + darknet + market in the world, but our work is not finished,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said, pledging to continue the hunt. + dark web + (another name for the “darknet”).

The US justice system has already indicted a Russian citizen, Dimitri Pavlov, 30, who is accused of operating servers used to operate Hydra. He is charged with drug trafficking and organized money laundering.

The US Treasury Department also announced economic sanctions against Hydra, as well as the virtual currency exchange Garantex.

In addition, “more than 100 addresses” have been identified of recipients of funds in cryptocurrency transactions linked to Hydra and “used to carry out illegal transactions”.

This action aims to “message criminals, you can’t hide on the + darknet+ or their forums, and you can’t hide in Russia or anywhere in the world,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. quoted in the press release, referring to “the global threat of cybercrime and ransomware that originated in Russia”.

The German authorities had already dismantled the “DarkMarket” platform in early 2021, when it was presented by researchers as the main selling point in the cyber black market. This operation sparked a worldwide crackdown a few months later that led to the arrest of some 150 people who bought or sold drugs or weapons.