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U.S. Sanctions Darknet Market and Ransomware-Enabling Virtual Currency Exchange

Representational Photo

Representational Photo

Following a coordinated German law enforcement action, the United States has taken further action to combat Russian-related illicit finance and cybercrime by sanctioning the world’s largest darknet market for Russian speakers, Hydra, and the virtual currency exchange Garantex.

This action – coordinated with U.S allies and partners – disrupts ransomware infrastructure and actors and targets the abuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments.

According to an April 5 statement from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Hydra, which provides a marketplace for illicit services.

These services include ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and hacking services and software, stolen personal information, counterfeit currency, stolen virtual currency, and illicit drugs. 

The U.S. Department of Treasury also designated Garantex, a virtual currency exchange that has processed millions of dollars in transactions associated with illicit actors, including nearly $6 million from Russian ransomware gang Conti and more than $2 million from Hydra.

The United States said in its statement that it is committed to taking action against those who engage in money laundering or the financing of terrorism and allow their systems to be abused for illicit purposes. 

The statement added that wanton disregard for regulations and compliance by persons that run virtual currency exchanges will be investigated and, if appropriate, those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. 

The United States urges the international community to effectively implement international Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards with respect to virtual asset, particularly regarding virtual assets service providers.

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