It’s been a year ever since the Russia-based Hydra darknet market (DNS), considered to be the world’s largest darknet market, was shut down and yet researchers are seeing cybercriminals reviving the business using other means.
New markets including Blacksprut, Kraken, Mega, Solaris, and OMG!OMG! have managed to survive and continue its illicit trade of cryptocurrency among others.
The darknet, after the Hydra darknet market
Upon the seizure of the Hydra darknet market on April 5, 2022, Bitcoins summing up to $25 million were recovered by the German authorities in collaboration with multiple United States federal authorities.
Now the trade looks bleak with some of the threat actors moving to the “RuTor” forum and others choosing to stay afloat on Telegram.
After the Hydra darknet market was sanctioned, researchers observed an increase in discussions of cryptocurrency cashout services and mixers on Telegram.
Seizure banner on the Hydra darknet market
Ripples felt after the Hydra darknet market was taken down
Several mixers and exchanges were sanctioned as a result of suspicious transactions between them and Hydra wallets.
Over $125 million was found being sent by Hydra to the said exchanges and nearly $170 million was received, according to a Flash Point report.
The US legal authorities pulled down Bitzlato, Blender, and Chatex among others for their risky exchanges of alleged stolen funds that drew parallel to Hydra’s transactions between 2015 and 2022.
The Hydra darknet market was found to have made a fortune of over $1 billion in 2020 which crumbled down after its closure thereby causing a tremendous impact on the darknet ecosystem.
Now researchers are beginning to see a few small independent vendors and vendor shops making the most of the darknet resources.
The five that survived after the Hydra darknet market fall
Most of the buying and selling today is attributed to the infamous five – Blacksprut, Kraken, Mega, OMG!OMG!, and Solaris.
While the market OMG!OMG! made over $12.15 million in sales in April 2022 alone, which is also its first month in the illegal trade, Mega topped the chart of the Russian language darknet markets amassing a total of nearly $40 million in March 2023, a report stated.
Blacksprut made nearly $20 million followed by Kraken with a total of $10 million in illegal trade after the Hydra market seizure.
Russian-language darknet markets vs western DNMs
The report also highlighted a stark difference between a typical Russian-language DNM vendor and its Western counterparts.
In terms of reach and geographical limits to clients, Russian DNMs going for the ‘dead-drop delivery model’ have constricted trade in the region of its vendors and couriers.
While Western DNMs opt for the international mail delivery model that caters to an international audience.