Hydra: Lessons from the world’s largest darknet market

Autors present a comprehensive description of Hydra, the largest darknet marketplace in the world until its shutdown in April 2022.

Authors document the main features of Hydra such as dead-drop delivery, feedback and reputation system, escrow, and dispute resolution. Using data scraped from the platform, they quantitatively examine the scale and the structure of the marketplace. They find that it has been highly competitive, geographically covering at least 69% of the Russian population and trading a wide variety of drugs, while also allowing the wholesale trade of drugs and precursors. The dead-drop delivery system used on Hydra was expensive, as the courier costs comprised a substantial proportion of the sale price of drugs on Hydra.

Authors contribute to the research on drug cryptomarkets by studying an unprecedentedly large non-Western marketplace that existed substantially longer than any other known darknet market.

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