Blockchain & Cryptocurrency , Cybercrime as-a-service , Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks

Hydra Darknet Market: Threat Intelligence Lessons Learned

Flashpoint's Ian Gray on Cybercrime Marketplace Dynamics and Impact of Takedowns
Ian Gray, senior intelligence director, Flashpoint

Darknet markets continue to thrive as hubs for criminality, including for narcotics and firearm distribution, malware supply, ransomware recruitment and other cornerstone cybercrime-as-a-service activities.

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Until its disruption earlier this year, the Russian-language Hydra marketplace was the world's largest darknet market. Studying how Hydra became such a success will be key to tracking and disrupting future darknet markets, says Ian Gray, senior intelligence director at Flashpoint.

Hydra makes quite a case study. After debuting in 2015, the market pushed aside its rivals and "grew to a scale of 19,000 vendors on the marketplace, 17 million users, 80% of darknet market transactions since 2015 … $5.2 billion in revenue, likely more, and when German federal police took down the servers, there was $25 million there in the servers," Gray says.

In a video interview with Information Security Media Group at RSA Conference 2022, where he served on the session panel for Hydra Marketplace: Where Crypto Money Laundering Trail Goes Cold, Gray also discusses:

  • The dynamics of cybercrime marketplaces and the effects of law enforcement takedowns;
  • What threat intelligence and blockchain investigations reveal about how sellers and cybercriminals used the Hydra marketplace to launder gains;
  • The correlation between geopolitics and cybercrime: how the war in Ukraine is affecting tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as goals.

Gray leads Americas research and analysis at Flashpoint, where he focuses on deep and dark web intelligence. Gray actively researches cybercriminal use of new and emerging technologies for malicious purposes in various fraud communities. He has also been researching policy gaps that contribute to various forms of fraud, as well as economic factors contributing to cybercrime. Gray also serves as an adjunct professor for Fordham University's Master of Science in Cybersecurity program.

About the Author

Mathew J. Schwartz

Mathew J. Schwartz

Executive Editor, DataBreachToday & Europe, ISMG

Schwartz is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience in magazines, newspapers and electronic media. He has covered the information security and privacy sector throughout his career. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2014, where he now serves as the executive editor, DataBreachToday and for European news coverage, Schwartz was the information security beat reporter for InformationWeek and a frequent contributor to DarkReading, among other publications. He lives in Scotland.

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