Dismantling of a major Russian “darknet” platform

The “higher” sales platform “dark web” The market, called “Hydra Market” and which has been operating in Russian since 2015, was dismantled and 23 million euros worth of bitcoins were seized, the German justice announced on Tuesday. “The servers of the largest darknet market in the world have been confiscated and 543 bitcoins with a total value of approximately 23 million euros have been secured”according to a press release from the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The “darknet” is a parallel version of the Internet, in which the anonymity of users is guaranteed. Investigators suspect that the “Hydra Market” platform, which has around 17 million customers, is used for criminal activities and money laundering through more than 19,000 merchant accounts. In 2020 alone, at least €1.23 billion in sales were made through the “Hydra Market” platform, making it “the illegal market with the highest turnover in the world”, according to the press release. The Russian-language site accessible through the Tor network was primarily used for trading drugs, stolen data, and forged documents. A banner announcing the police seizure was posted on the Hydra website on Tuesday, authorities said.

Cybercrime, “a global threat”

A sophisticated service, called the “bitcoin bank mixer”, served to hide digital financial transactions with cryptocurrencies, which made the investigation very difficult, underlines the BKA. Investigations began in 2021, but the identity of the operators and administrators responsible for the platform is currently unclear. The operation was carried out in conjunction with US authorities. “Together with our German partners, we have taken over the infrastructure of the world’s largest darknet market, but our work is not done”US Attorney General Merrick Garland commented, vowing to continue tracking criminals operating on the “dark web” (another name for the “dark web”).

US justice has already prosecuted a Russian citizen, Dimitri Pavlov, 30, accused of having managed servers used to operate Hydra. He is being prosecuted for drug trafficking and organized money laundering, according to the indictment. The US Department of the Treasury also announced economic sanctions against Hydra, as well as the Garantex virtual currency exchange. On the other hand, “over 100 addresses” recipients of funds in cryptocurrency transactions related to Hydra and “used to carry out illicit transactions”have been identified.

This action is intended to send “A message to criminals, you can’t hide on the darknet or its forums, and you can’t hide in Russia or anywhere else in the world,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was quoted in the press release as saying, referring to “The Global Threat of Cybercrime and Ransomware Originating in Russia.” German authorities had already dismantled the “DarkMarket” platform in early 2021, later presented by investigators as the most important cyber black market outlet. This operation led a few months later to a worldwide crackdown that led to the arrest of some 150 people who bought or sold drugs or weapons.

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