Police Shut Down ‘Hydra,’ One of the Largest Dark Web Marketplaces

German authorities seized and shut down Hydra, a Russian-language darknet market, and seized around $25 million in Bitcoin.
Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA)
Image: Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA)

German authorities have shut down and seized the servers of Hydra, one of the largest dark web marketplaces. 

On Tuesday, Germany’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced the operation in a press release where they called Hydra “the world’s largest illegal darknet marketplace,” according to a Google translation of the announcement. The authorities said the seizure and shut down was done on the basis that Hydra facilitates the purchase of illegal drugs and money laundering, and the investigation was conducted by several German authorities with the help of US authorities. 

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Hydra was “a Russian-language darknet platform” that was online since 2015. The market had 17 million customers and more than 19,000 seller accounts, according to the authorities. The authorities estimated that the market’s sales amounted to 1.23 billion euros in 2020. 

The police replaced Hydra’s homepage with a banner announcing the operation.

hydra-announcement.png

Hydra facilitated over $5 billion in Bitcoin transactions since its inception in 2015, according to Elliptic, a blockchain intelligence firm.  

“The platform specialized in the sale of drugs—although listings on the site also included forged documents, data (such as credit card information) and digital services. Products were advertised for sale in a number of countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan,” Elliptic wrote in a blog post. “Hydra also had additional offerings – including a cryptoasset exchange and cash-out services. Its built-in exchange was also famously used to launder funds from the 2016 Bitfinex exchange hack.”

Do you have information about this law enforcement operation? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Telegram/Wire @lorenzofb, or email lorenzofb@vice.com

German authorities said they seized Bitcoin worth $25.3 million. The seizure was confirmed by Elliptic, which found 88 transactions made on Tuesday totalling 543.3 Bitcoin. 

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