July 18, 2024

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Hydra: How German cops took down a Russian darknet site

Sebastian Zwiebel described the moment his team shut down Hydra, the world’s largest darknet bazaar, as giving us all chills.

The website had been a haven for cyber-crime for over six years, offering drugs and illegal goods.

However, German police seized the site’s servers and confiscated €23 million (£16.7 million) in Bitcoin after receiving a tip.

The marketplace, which now has a police seizure notice, has 17 million clients and over 19,000 seller accounts, according to authorities.

Hydra specialised in same-day “dead drop” services, in which drug dealers (vendors) conceal items in public places before notifying customers of the pick-up location.

Many high-profile darknet markets have shut down in the last six months, but Hydra appears to have defied police efforts to stop it.

The website first went live in 2015, selling drugs, hacked files, falsified documents, and unlawful digital services like Bitcoin mixing, which cybercriminals use to launder stolen or extorted digital currency.

The site originated in Russian, and the sellers were from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and other nations in the region.

A bullet-proof hosting company does not conduct audits on the websites or content it hosts and will happily host illicit websites while avoiding police inquiries for client information.

According to Mr Zwiebel, his investigators then presented their evidence to a German judge, who granted them authorization to approach the server firm and issue a takedown notice.

The corporation had no choice but to cooperate, or else they would have been detained as well.

Despite their triumph, German officials believe that the Hydra cyber-crime organisation will not be defeated unless they can locate and apprehend its members.

The White House Market, Cannazon, and Torrez all closed due to voluntary closures in October 2021, November 2021, and December 2021, respectively.

However, according to the research, the most prevalent way for darknet sites to shut down is through “exit scams,” in which administrators voluntarily shut down the sites while stealing their customers’ money.