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Darknet Update: Hydra Reigns, Monero Acceptance Climbs, Russian State Collusion Questioned
At the end of 2020 Darknet markets (DNM) established new records as marketplaces like White House and the Russian-language DNM Hydra led the pack. A report , published on May 25, reports that Hydra recorded an increase of 624% in year-over-year rate over the last three years, and experts estimate that about 75% of illegal DNM transactions originate from the Russian marketplace. Furthermore, the privacy-focused coin monero is gaining more vendor acceptance on DNMs these days. On June 29, monero captured 84% of the vendor’s acceptance on three of the top marketplaces.
The Complex Russian Darknet Market Hydra Eclipses 26 Marketplaces
While the cryptocurrency markets are sagging relative to value, use of darknet markets has continued to rise. DNMs have remained profitable during Covid-19. Stats suggested that even while the entire world was in lockdown, DNM usage was booming.
A number of DNMs are in operation today, and the data and reports show that the two most important darknet marketplaces comprise Hydra and White House Market. Other noteworthy DNMs in the second quarter of 2021, include world market link Market Darknet, Cannazon, Cannahome, Torrez Market, Dark0de Reborn Market, Vice City, Aurora, and the Majestic Garden.
The end of May, the blockchain forensics companies Chainalysis and Flashpoint threat intelligence published the report, which takes a deep dive into the rise of Hydra. The report called „Hydra: Where Cryptocurrency Roads All Lead to Russia and Go Dark,” describes the ways in which Hydra administrators have strict guidelines for sellers using the DNM.
Despite Hydra’s strict rules however, the report shows the fact that Hydra is always profitable. Furthermore, vendor withdrawals are routed through Russian exchanges and service operators, the report details. According to the Flashpoint along with the Chainalysis report adds:
„Hydra market activity has skyrocketed since its inception, with annual transaction volumes growing from a total of $9.40 million in 2016 to north of $1.37 billion by the end of 2020. Observed through blockchain analysis, we see a staggering 624% year-over-year growth rate for Hydra in its three most recent years 2018 to 2020.”
Monero Acceptance on Darknet Markets Continues to Rise
Darknet tracker data supplied by the blockchain analytics service 1000x Group estimates that there are 27 DNMs operating today. Nine of the markets accept BTC only five markets take BTC and a variety of currencies eleven markets accept BTC and monero (XMR), and two markets will only accept XMR. Bitcoin exclusive markets are Darkfox, Hydra, Vice City, Aurora, Majestic Garden, Neptune, Mega, Global Dreams, and Flugsvamp 3.0. Meanwhile, marketplaces dedicated to monero are limited to White House Market and Archetyp Market.
One of the best markets, similar to Hydra, White House Market (WHM) also has strict guidelines and monero (XMR) only accepts one of the requirements. WHM is also a requirement for 2FA, as well as the use of PGP and the site is often down from DDOS attacks over the years. The DNM is home to hundreds of vendors and boasts that it will have more than one million users by 2021. WHM has gathered a massive quantity of clients and vendors after the fall of Dream Market and there’s more than 50,000 products available. It’s also worth noting that the DNM White House Market additionally offers 4% of the commission on all products sold through the deep web site.
Statistics show that monero (XMR) has witnessed a significant uptick in market acceptance for three functional DNMs. Although BTC is still the most popular choice for DNMs, XMR commands an significant amount of support on these markets. DNM tracker data indicates that during the final two weeks of May XMR vendor acceptance was above 50%.
In the initial two weeks of June, monero saw a dip below the 50% limit and saw a peak of 37.60 percent by June 8. But, monero’s acceptance by vendors climbed to 84% on 30 June, and it has been over the 50% area since. In the event that monero had a downturn in mid-June, there was higher percentage of the litecoin (LTC) vendor acceptance at the time. The rate of acceptance for vendors tracks the acceptance of vendors through Versus Market, Cannahome, and Cannazon.
Does Hydra Have a Semi-Official Sanction from Russian Leaders?
In the meantime, as Hydra has grown into one of the biggest DNMs in the world, surpassing the previous Russian DNM Ramp, Joe Biden’s administration is particularly concerned about Russia’s involvement with these types of actors. Biden has been talking about Russia to the media and wants Russia to take steps to stop cyber threats like ransomware.
Following the Colonial Pipeline attack and the Kaseya breach, Biden told the press that he spoke to Russian president Vladmir Putin on Friday. Biden said he advised Putin that he should „take action” against these cyber-criminals.
„I made it very clear to [Vladmir Putin] that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden stressed this week.
It’s true that the ransomware issue is a issue, but Bloomberg blogger Leonid Bershidsky believes that there’s the possibility that Hydra is under some sort in the form of „semi-official sanction” from Russian officials. Bershidsky mentions in a recent piece in which Russia’s „Hydra, its krysha, or protection, is the elephant in the room.” The writer says Putin isn’t in any way arousing reason to impose a stricter policy on DNMs and he also thinks that „retaliatory action from the U.S. isn’t compelling enough.” Bershidsky’s opinion editorial concludes:
„As things stand, Putin can let the likes of Hydra worry about that prospect. And if they are crushed, others can take their place. The dark web is nothing if not resilient.”