Russian Dark Web Marketplace Hydra Cryptocurrency Trading Reaches $1.37 Billion in 2020

Hydra, a Russian darknet market

Recently, Flashpoint and Chainalysis jointly released a report on the Russian dark web marketplace Hydra, and the investigation revealed that despite its illegal existence, Hydra has seen a surge in trading volume in recent years and has a thriving cryptocurrency ecosystem.

The version 2 domain of the Russian dark web market Hydra is: http://hydraruzxpnew4af.onion

At the beginning of its establishment in 2015, Hydra was known for selling drugs, but over time, the market has expanded to include transactions including stolen credit card data, forged documents including ID cards, counterfeit banknotes, and cyber-attack services, as well as other products.

The annual transaction volume is increasing year by year, from an estimated 9.4 million US dollars in 2016 to at least 1.37 billion US dollars in 2020.

Cryptocurrency is often used in underground markets by cybercriminals to maintain a certain degree of anonymity and to purchase goods and money laundering proceeds, such as funds obtained through theft, illegal merchandise sales, or ransomware payments.

However, the underlying blockchain technology analyzed by the researchers can still reveal some information about transaction rates. The team said that in the last three years, Hydra has grown by approximately 624% year-on-year, making it possible to become one of the more popular crime markets at the moment.

The market only provides services for Russian users, at least for now, it has avoided short-term downtime or confiscated by law enforcement agencies. 

Hydra keeps its users consistent and has strict requirements for sellers, which may be an important aspect of the illegal success of the market. Since at least July 2018, Hydra operators require at least 50 successful sales before allowing withdrawals, and must maintain an e-wallet account containing at least $10,000.

The report records more than 1,000 unique deposit addresses and transactions of up to 7 million U.S. dollars that are believed to be related to Hydra. When it comes to cryptocurrency exchanges that trade back and forth with Hydra, Chainalysis considers many “high-risk” because they The "Know Your Customer (KYC)" regulations are not enforced. Most are located in Russia, and overall, only a small percentage of transactions are conducted through cryptocurrency platforms that are usually associated with legitimate transactions.

According to the report, withdrawals are also made through payment services and exchanges "completely or mainly in Russia and Russia-friendly Eastern European countries." Hydra requires sellers to convert their profits into fiat currency and Russian currency. Despite the iron fist imposed on sellers, Hydra accounts are still highly sought after.

Researchers say that a new submarket has recently emerged to obtain established seller accounts and users who are trying to bypass Hydra's fiat currency withdrawal requirements-just to share profits. The store's selling price is as high as $10,000.

Law enforcement agencies have seized and closed down dark web markets from the Silk Road to the dark market. However, at least for now, Hydra continues to facilitate the sale of illegal goods and services.

In January of this year, Europol closed DarkMarket, a platform that facilitated transactions between approximately 500,000 users. An Australian citizen was suspected of being the operator of the website and was later arrested.

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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