- Russian darknet markets and ransomware groups have continued to operate despite sanctions and efforts to shut them down.
- Ukraine War has caused disruptions in the illicit crypto ecosystem.
- Russia-linked cybercrime organizations, DNMs, ransomware syndicates and crypto exchanges have remained active despite crackdowns.
Russian Darknet Markets Thrive Despite Sanctions
Russian marketplaces on the dark web have continued to operate despite Western sanctions and efforts to shut them down. Cybercrime organizations are full of Russian-speaking members, while Russian-language darknet markets (DNMs) dominate the global drugs trade in cryptocurrency. New DNMs have quickly filled the gap left by dismantled platforms, with sales surpassing those before the disruption.
Ukraine War Disrupts Illicit Crypto Ecosystem
Before Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, cryptocurrency exchanges associated with both countries accounted for over half of international volumes of illicit crypto funds. The blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs has been analyzing changes in the illicit crypto ecosystem to find out how cybercriminals are adjusting to disruptions caused by the conflict. The two sides rely on donations in digital assets to fund their military and humanitarian campaigns, while authorities try hard to limit Moscow’s opportunities for using coins to bypass restrictions.
Western Crackdown On Russia-Linked Platforms
Western governments and law enforcement agencies targeted Russia-linked DNMs, ransomware syndicates and crypto exchanges as soon as war broke out. This exposed users to increased risks but these services have continued operations even after unprecedented actions against them. In April German authorities seized servers of Hydra – then largest darknet market – while U.S Treasury imposed sanctions on Hydra and Garantex exchange accused of processing $100 million of illicit transactions including $6 million from Conti ransomware group.
Garantex Continues Operation Despite Sanctions
Despite sanctioning Garantex exchange has more than doubled its trading volumes over the course of 2022. Conti officially shut down but it rebranded itself as several smaller groups still conducting operations under different name. However such activities remain risky because US government is actively pursuing perpetrators involved in money laundering schemes using digital assets which could lead up to 10 years imprisonment with fines up $500 000 or double amount laundered whichever is higher for each violation committed by individual or organisation caught in act .
Despite sanctions aimed at disrupting illicit activities on cryptomarkets operations still take place albeit with greater caution due precautionary measures taken by participants involved in such activities . Clear message from US government targeting all those involved should act as warning sign that further violation will not be tolerated .