Despite a recent flurry of bad press, Hydra, the world’s largest and longest standing darknet market is more popular than ever in 2021, thanks largely to lack of local regulation, interference from law enforcement, and oversight of crypto-fiat transfers.
In conjunction with research performed by Flashpoint, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis reported a huge year-over-year surge in Hydra’s sales activity, which rose by 33% between 2019 and 2020. Despite plans being shelved for a long-hinted global expansion, Hydra is still on pace to top their previous sales record by the end of 2021, which will be bigger than its closest competitor by several hundred million dollars.
Overall, Hydra grew an astounding 624% in the three years between 2018 and 2020, fueled by a lack of competition and the apparent unwillingness of local law enforcement to pursue closure of the market.
The report covers the history of Hydra, which opened in 2015 but remained relatively obscure until the collapse of Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP) in July 2017. 2020 marks the second year in a row in which Hydra sales volume has exceeded $1 billion, according to estimates by Chainalysis. The firm’s research also indicates that Hydra experiences an unusually small amount of downtime for a darknet market, with one notable, pre-planned closure in March 2020 that was caused by covid-forced suspension of shipping infrastructure.
Hydra has been the subject of even more unwanted attention than usual in recent months. The market crossed into the focus of mainstream media sources after it was revealed that ransomware profiteers at the now-infamous hacker group Darkside had moved a portion of their ill-gotten BTC through the market.
Not just darknet market vendors, but hackers, scammers and those running other criminal enterprises are increasingly turning to Hydra as they run low on KYC-free cashout options. In the report, Chainalysis details how the rise of regulatory oversight regarding fiat-crypto transfers is funneling most criminal crypto transfers to opaque cashout services. As a result, Hydra has a reputation of being where crypto money trails “go dark.”
“The longer Hydra runs unscathed, the more apparent its regional influence,” the report concludes.
“Despite hits to other well-established Russian-speaking cybercriminal communities and marketplaces in recent months… enforcement scrutiny and competitor chicanery have so far eluded Hydra. This may be a mere coincidence, or it could indicate that Hydra is more resilient to oscillating geopolitics and law enforcement efforts.”