U.S. Imposes Sanctions Against Russia’s Largest Darknet Marketplace

  • Russian darknet marketplace Hydra and crypto exchange Garantex have been connected to Russian cybercrime, and have become the new targets for OFAC sanctions.
  • In its investigation, OFAC found more than $8 million connected to ransomware attacks had moved through Hydra, while Garantex had facilitated over $100 million in illicit transactions.
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The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is imposing new sanctions targeting Russian cybercrime, this time against darknet market Hydra and crypto exchange Garantex, the agency said in a press release on 5 April.

According to the announcement, the Treasury Department had collaborated with multiple government agencies in order to impose the new sanctions, namely the Department of Justice (DoJ), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, said in a statement:

“The global threat of cybercrime and ransomware that originates in Russia, and the ability of criminal leaders to operate there with impunity, is deeply concerning to the United States. Our actions send a message today to criminals that you cannot hide on the darknet or their forums, and you cannot hide in Russia or anywhere else in the world.”

OFAC’s investigation into Hydra found more than $8 million connected to ransomware attacks that had moved through the darknet marketplace. Garantex, on the other hand, had facilitated over $100 million in transactions “associated with illicit actors and darknet markets. The agency also identified over 100 crypto addresses that had connections to both entities, and were used for illicit transactions.

The U.S. sanctions against Hydra and Garantex came the same day the German Federal Criminal Police announced it had seized Hydra servers in Germany, and confiscated more than $25 million worth of Bitcoin connected to the darknet marketplace. The police revealed it had been conducting an extensive investigation into Hydra since August 2021, during which it had received help from several U.S. authorities.

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