German federal police said Tuesday they had shut down the dark web Hydra market, which trafficked in illegal narcotics and helped launder money for criminals worldwide.
Authorities seized “server infrastructure” within Germany and 543 bitcoins worth more than $25 million total as of Tuesday morning’s exchange rate, according to a news release from the BKA agency.
U.S. authorities assisted in the case, which began in August 2021, BKA said. An image posted by law enforcement on the Hydra site included the logos of the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. CyberScoop has reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice for comment.
Experts have said the Russian-language Hydra was the world’s largest dark web market, with sales of more than $1 billion in 2020 alone. German prosecutors said the site had about 17 million user accounts and more than 19,000 seller accounts, according to the Associated Press.
In handling large volumes of cryptocurrency, Hydra also ran a “mixer” service that assisted in money laundering and “made crypto investigations extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies,” the BKA said.
Researchers have said that among the mixer’s customers were people associated with the theft of $4.5 billion in cryptocurrency from the virtual exchange Bitfinex in 2016. Heather “Razzlekhan” Morgan and Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein were arrested in February and accused of conspiring to launder those digital coins. The DarkSide ransomware gang — known for the 2020 attack on Colonial Pipeline — also laundered some of its ill-gotten funds through Hydra, researchers have said.
In addition to the narcotics trade, Hydra users also sold illegal goods like “forged documents” and “digital services,” the BKA said. The cybercrime unit of the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office also assisted in the case, police said.
Russian-language cybercrime networks have been under continued pressure from law enforcement lately:
• In March, the FBI indicted a 23-year-old Russian for allegedly running Marketplace A, which specialized in stolen data.
• Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian law enforcement cracked down on Sky Fraud and other cybercrime marketplaces.
• The Ukraine invasion caused upheaval in Eastern Europe’s cybercrime underground, as hackers and crooks adjusted their priorities and allegiances, particularly after the leak of thousands of internal documents from the Conti group.
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