World’s largest dark web marketplace taken down by law enforcement

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German law enforcement has seized the servers propping up Hydra Market, allegedly the biggest marketplace on the dark web.

In a press release, the Central Office for Combating Cybercrime (ZIT) and Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced the platform had been taken down and $24.6 million-worth of bitcoin seized. No arrests have yet been made, it was said.

Hydra Market, which was allegedly run by Russians, was used to sell drugs and launder money. It was also used to distribute stolen databases, documents, and cybercrime tools and services, such as viruses (opens in new tab) for hire. 

Hydra had some 19,000 registered seller accounts, and more than 17 million customers around the world. The law enforcement agencies say the marketplace had a turnover of $1.35 billion in 2020.

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Dark web marketplaces

The last time a major dark web marketplace was seized was in 2013, when Silk Road was shut down. Silk Road was launched in 2011 and quickly became a popular underground market. It was mostly used to purchase drugs, but fake drivers licenses were also on offer, along with malware (opens in new tab) and ransomware (opens in new tab).

In October 2013, the FBI shut the website down and arrested founder Ross Ulbricht. He was convicted of seven charges and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

And in November 2020, the United States government seized more than $1 billion worth of bitcoin allegedly connected to Silk Road.

After the shutdown of Silk Road, many copycats quickly emerged, including The Farmer’s Market, Atlantis, Project Black Flag, Black Market Reloaded, and Wall Street Market. All of these websites are now defunct.

Silk Road 2.0 and Silk Road 3 Reloaded also popped up in recent history, but both have already been shut down. Blake Benthall, the alleged owner and operator of Silk Road 2.0, was arrested in 2014. 

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