Crypto criminals are thriving on the darknet, net nearly $2 billion



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  • Darknet marketplaces’ crypto revenue hit $1.7 billion in 2023, despite crackdowns.
  • No single platform replaced Hydra; instead, niche markets flourished, diversifying the darknet economy.
  • Mega Darknet Market led these sites with over $500 billion in crypto inflows, showing the scale of operations.
  • Crypto-related sanctions by the US OFAC more than doubled, targeting 18 entities or individuals.

The underworld of the internet, known as the darknet, is a bustling marketplace for those looking to engage in less-than-legal transactions, especially where cryptocurrency is concerned. It’s like a never-ending game of cat and mouse, with cybercriminals constantly finding new ways to evade the grasp of authorities. This past year, these darknet marketplaces have seen their crypto revenue soar to a staggering $1.7 billion.

After the takedown of Hydra, the giant of darknet marketplaces, many expected a downturn in the darknet’s market activity. However, the void left by Hydra’s demise was quickly filled, not by a single entity, but by a plethora of smaller, niche marketplaces each carving out their own corner of the dark web.

These platforms are thriving, contributing significantly to the overall $1.7 billion revenue figure reported. Mega Darknet Market, for instance, has emerged as a leader among these, with crypto inflows exceeding $500 billion. This shift towards more specialized online marketplaces indicates a sophisticated evolution of the darknet economy, making it harder for authorities to target and dismantle these illicit networks.

Despite the significant revenue generated, these markets have yet to surpass the peak earnings during Hydra’s reign. This, however, doesn’t seem to deter the operators and users of these sites. On the contrary, it appears to fuel their determination to innovate and diversify their offerings, all the while keeping law enforcement agencies on their toes.

Cybercrime is ever-evolving, with darknet marketplaces and crypto-linked sanctions from the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) highlighting the adaptability and persistence of these criminal enterprises. In 2023 alone, sanctions more than doubled, targeting 18 individuals or entities involved in illicit crypto activities. This shift in focus signifies the growing concern over the use of cryptocurrencies in facilitating illegal transactions, which accounted for a significant 61.5% of all illicit transaction volumes, amounting to nearly $14.9 billion.

While the battle against darknet marketplaces rages on, another front is opening up in the form of crypto scams. Despite a year-over-year decrease in overall scam revenue, from $5.9 billion to $4.6 billion, the nature and sophistication of these scams continue to evolve. Notably, romance scams, or “pig butchering” cons, have seen an astonishing increase in revenue, highlighting the cruel creativity of scammers in exploiting human emotions for financial gain. These scams, alongside phishing efforts, are particularly insidious, often leaving victims financially and emotionally devastated.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Jai Hamid

Jai Hamid is a passionate writer with a keen interest in blockchain technology, the global economy, and literature. She dedicates most of her time to exploring the transformative potential of crypto and the dynamics of worldwide economic trends.

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