$25 million confiscated by German authorities in takedown of Hydra dark web marketplace
Hydra's homepage after a takedown by German authorities
Jonathan Greig April 5, 2022

$25 million confiscated by German authorities in takedown of Hydra dark web marketplace

$25 million confiscated by German authorities in takedown of Hydra dark web marketplace

German authorities said on Tuesday that they shut down Russian dark web marketplace Hydra in an operation that saw police seize more than $25 million worth of Bitcoin. 

The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, and the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor’s office for combating cybercrime released a statement saying they shut down the “server infrastructure” of Hydra – a dark web marketplace that they said had sales amounting to at least $1.34 billion in 2020 alone.

“Among other things, there is a suspicion of the commercial operation of criminal trading platforms on the Internet, the commercial procurement or granting of an opportunity for the unauthorized purchase or the unauthorized sale of narcotics as well as commercial money laundering,” German law enforcement officials said, adding that US authorities have been involved in the investigation of Hydra since August 2021. 

An image of the Hydra marketplace prior to its takedown.

“The illegal marketplace was a Russian-language Darknet platform that had been accessible via the Tor network since at least 2015. Their focus was on trading in illegal narcotics. In addition, data spied out worldwide, forged documents and digital services were offered profitably via the platform.”

The marketplace had about 17 million customers and more than 19,000 accounts selling a variety of things, according to German authorities. 

The raid also involved the take down of Bitcoin Bank Mixer, a well-known cryptocurrency mixer that allowed users to obfuscate the origin of ill-gotten funds. 

Blockchain analysis firm Elliptic explained in a blog post that Hydra was the largest market operating on the dark web, facilitating more than $5 billion in Bitcoin transactions since beginning operations in December 2015.

Elliptic said its data shows the marketplace had already facilitated more than $424 million in sales for 2022. The blockchain analysis company also confirmed that about $25 million was seized by German authorities, finding that 543.3 BTC was transferred in 88 transactions. 

“Hydra quickly rose to become the most prominent Russian-language darknet market after the closure of a key competitor in 2017,” Elliptic said, referencing the Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP) that was shut down in 2017

“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 noted that the marketplace was used by some of the people behind the infamous $5.2 billion hack of Bitfinex to launder their stolen money. 

The homepage for Hydra is now replaced with a message from German authorities saying the platform was seized. 

German authorities did not respond to requests for comment about whether the raids led to any arrests. The Moscow Times reported that many of Hydra’s admins and developers are in Russia.

Image: Elliptic

Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.