In this article we explain everything you need to know to get connected to the darknet’s biggest market, Hydra.
Hydra is one of the oldest and arguably longest-running darknet market, opening for business in 2015. It is also the most notorious since ransomware operators frequently employ BTC cashout services offered by the market’s vendors. Presented entirely in Cyrillic (Russian) and Bitcoin-only, the market features tens of thousands of product listings for most of the popular darknet product categories. Despite mounting international pressure to dismantle its infrastructure, Russia seems unwilling to take Hydra down. This has only served to bolster its popularity, making it a fixture of the dark web.
On one hand, Hydra is the largest darknet market by orders of magnitude and has huge selections of just about everything you could ask for in a darknet market. On the other hand, it is pretty much Russia’s only darknet market – all others never going uninterrupted for long – and therefore its monopolistic features can lead to higher prices than regions with more competition. A particular backstory for Hydra posits that it was created after three competing markets joined together to take out the competition. Other reasoning provided by the market itself suggests that the leadership of the market is distributed, which means that it can continue to operate even if one admin or component is shut down.
One of the interesting things about Hydra is that it makes each new user agree to a highly-tailed Terms of Service when registering an account. Its not entirely certain if the market engages in this practice to resolve customer complaints or because they think it will absolve them of some legal responsibility, but the fact remains that it remains very illegal within its (assumed) host country of Russia. For one, Russia has very strict drug laws, which would certainly be enough to have the market shut down on a legal basis. Don’t bother attempting to make a purchase from the market if you’re not in one of the Russian Federation countries mentioned as an option during signup.
Despite Hydra’s notorious reputation (thanks to some of its vendors moving funds tied to high-profile cybercrime), the market has banned the sale of a lot of classic materials to be found for sale on the darknet. These include weapons, poisons, contract killings, explosives, carding, “secret state information,” fentanyl, pornographic materials, viruses, and “other tools to commit criminal activities through cyberattacks.” In addition, Hydra forbids dead-drops (leaving products or “making treasures”) near schools, playgrounds, cemeteries, government-owned land or in commercial establishments. This demonstrates the market has some basic principles, at the very least.
Basic Facts about Hydra Market
- Hydra Market Link: hydram6esdjf6otepmr5c3vjyndsoddz22afphbbjznwb5ln2c6op7ad.onion
- Year founded: 2015
- Cryptocurrencies accepted: Bitcoin (BTC)
- Total Product/Service listings: 100,000+ (unknown)
- Listing Categories: Marijuana, Stimulants, “Euphoretics”, Psychedelics, Entheogens, Ecstasy, Dissociatives, Opiates, Chemical Reagents / Precursors, Pharmaceuticals, BTC Cashout, SSH, VPN, Digital Goods, Documents
- Multi-signature escrow? No
- Finalize Early? No
- Cost of vendor bond: $400+ (must have significant sales before withdraws are enabled)
Before Getting Started
There’s a number of subjects of which you must possess at least basic knowledge in order to access Hydra or any darknet marketplace. Skimping on knowledge of these subjects could result in a disastrous darknet market experience, and we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with them before attempting to use Hydra. They include the following:
- Bitcoin transactions. You must know how to send and receive Bitcoin (BTC). You should also familiarize yourself with the concept of “Bitcoin mixing,” which is the practice of obfuscating the source or trail of BTC transactions, as these can easily be monitored. ChipMixer is a trustworthy example of such as service, as is the Whirlpool feature of the Samourai Wallet.
- OpSec. Short for Operations Security, OpSec (as it pertains to the dark web) is the art of revealing as little information about yourself through your online activity as possible. This can mean things as basic as never using a login name for a darknet market that you’ve used on the clearnet, or as complicated as using completely untraceable Bitcoin to make deposits for market purchases.
There’s no such thing as learning too much about the above subjects, just as there’s no such thing as being over-prepared. A little knowledge can go a long way and be all the difference between a good darknet market experience and a bad one.
Hydra Territory Restrictions
Keep in mind that Hydra only caters to buyers and sellers in the following countries:
If you live outside of these countries, you will have little luck placing an order for a physical item (especially given that the ‘dead drop’ method is surpassing traditional delivery methods in popularity). Digital items, however, remain purchasable from all countries.
Disclaimer: This guide is for research purposes only and should not be construed as advice; legal or otherwise. The authors of this guide do not condone activities that are illegal in your jurisdiction or others. Use the contents of this guide and/or Hydra at your own risk.
Creating an Account
After solving a quick captcha and arriving at the Hydra homepage, you will be greeted with the normal login screen (except it will be in Russian instead of English). To create an account, click the middle option presented on the screen.
You will be brought to the registration screen, which when filled in correctly, looks something like this:
Note that the black dots represent the password, repeated on the next line. The first name you enter (Login Name) is the name you will enter along with your password when you log into the market. After solving the captcha and pressing the blue Enter button below, your account will have been created (so long as your username has not already been chosen), and you will be transported to a screen with a user agreement. Regardless of whether you can read Russian, you’ll want to understand what you are agreeing to as Hydra takes their rules very seriously.
After giving the terms a solid look-through, press the blue button at the bottom to accept. You will be transported to a new screen that asks for your general delivery location. You can then select a particular “town” or region within that country to further refine vendors servicing that area. If you don’t recognize what you are clicking, well let’s face it, you probably shouldn’t be trying to register an account on Hydra.
After you have selected your country and town, press the blue button at the bottom to continue. You will now be brought to main page for Hydra and are free to browse the market.
Note that logins never timeout on Hydra. This means that you will stay logged in to the market, even if you go offline and come back to the session hours later. To avoid the potential of compromising yourself, be sure to log out of the market once you are finished. For future reference, the market logout button can be found directly under the BTC price in rubles (starting with the letter “B”):
Setting a PGP Key
Though Hydra does not enforce PGP encryption, it is highly recommended that you assign a PGP key to your profile to receive encrypted communications (you should also always encrypt any sensitive information with a vendor’s PGP key before sending it, especially when it comes to shipping info). To do this, click on your username in the upper-right corner of the screen. This will bring you to your user profile page. Scroll down a bit until you see the following fields:
The options on the left are for general site settings. You will want to paste your PGP public key in the text box on the right side of the screen. After pasting your PGP key here, press the blue button to continue. If you entered the key correctly, you will receive a green message toward the top of the screen telling you your profile has been updated successfully. There is nothing to verify proof of ownership of PGP keys, so make sure you enter it in correctly the first time.
It’s been said that many vendors on Hydra do not bother to PGP encrypt order information, nor do they expect if of their customers. When afforded the opportunity, however, you should always configure your market account with a PGP key just in case, and PGP-encrypt information to vendors as well.
Making a Deposit
Hydra uses the traditional market account and escrow system, which means you must first make a deposit before placing an order. The only crypto accepted by Hydra is Bitcoin (BTC). To make a deposit, click on your BTC wallet balance (should read “0 BTC”) toward the upper-right side of the screen (next to your public username). This will bring you to your account balance page and BTC deposit address, which should look something like this:
BTC sent to this address will be credited to your Hydra account after 2 confirmations. After your payment has been credited, your address will change to a new one, and it is not recommended to make more than one deposit to the same address.
OpSec Tips for Deposit
One of the foremost rules of darknet market use is to never deposit BTC (or any coin) directly to a market from an exchange. This is especially true for Hydra as transactions to and from the market are heavily scrutinized by various entities, state-sponsored and non. You should also consider using a Bitcoin mixing/tumbling service before making the deposit, or at the very least send coins that assuredly cannot be traced back to your identity.
Browsing Hydra Market
Hydra’s layout is a bit different from most other markets as the home screen lands on a selection of top vendors known to have “stores” servicing one or more country/location. Rather than browsing all listings and filtering them by areas delivered, shoppers are encouraged to browse by shop. We have translated the menu option, with the translation shown in black text below each option. Note that shown by default is the Shops option.
Clicking on a vendor shop will reveal its collection of listings, along with some basic information about the store, such as its total number of trades, overall feedback rating, and the shop’s “Showcase” (collection of listings) displayed by default.
Every vendor store is equipped with the following tabs (translated left-to right): Showcase, Forum, About, Reviews, Work (jobs), Rules, and Buyer Section. Within these tabs you should be able to find everything you need to determine if this vendor is not only competent but will also service your area. If you prefer to browse by product type, that is also a possibility. Simply press the Goods tab, which will bring you to the market Catalog page.
Here you will see what the homepage display for most markets is usually, with listings categories in the left panel and featured products in the main. The categories maintained by Hydra include the following (translated from top-to-bottom):
- Chemical Reagents / Precursors
- BTC Cashout
- SSH, VPN
- Digital Goods
As with most darknet markets, the majority of listings on Hydra are for drugs, but they do also possess a large selection of non-physical items, and of course their BTC cashout service is what has perhaps made them the most (in)famous. Clicking on a listing reveals the following information:
On the left we see the product name, followed by the form (in this case, “crystal”). Below that is the item price in rubles, along with the product weight (0.5 grams). Beneath this is the list of locations in which the product can be purchased (from this vendor), followed by a short description by the vendor. On the right we see a full picture of the product; to the right of that is the overall product rating (“10”), an option to Favorite the listing, and other pictures of the product.
Placing an Order
After you’ve found a product you wish to purchase, scroll to the bottom of its listing page until you see two tabs: “Instant” (set by default) and “Pre-Order”. Not all vendors will carry both these options. “Instant” refers to orders left via the ‘dead drop’ system at a specified physical location for the buyer to retrieve. “Pre-Order” refers traditional order delivery via postal carrier, or delivery to a central location. Here is an example of “Instant” options offered by a vendor:
Here we see some locations serviced by the vendor, followed by the type of terrain on which the ‘treasure’ can be located (in this case, “Earthen”), and then the weight of the object to be picked up (0.5 grams). In the right column is the product price in rubles / BTC, followed by the select button. Pressing on the other tab reveals Pre-Order options supported by the vendor.
In this case, the vendor offers one city for Pre-Order (Moscow), but only for a product weight of 1000 grams at a rate of 680,000 rubles, or 0.155668581 BTC. For the remainder of this example, we will be demonstrating an “Instant”-type purchase (as those are more commonplace on Hydra), so we revert back to the other tab and select one of the dead drop location options.
Here we see the following info below the product name:
- Deal type (Instant)
- Location (Mytishy Boltino)
- Quantity (0.5 grams)
- “Treasure type” (Any, or Earthen Ditch)
- Promo code
- Total BTC payment, current account balance, and Top Up option.
If you do not have enough BTC to make a purchase, Hydra will offer you some BTC/RUB exchangers below the order confirmation screen. If you do have the BTC to make the purchase, press the blue “Confirm Order” button to continue. Your order will then be sent to the vendor who will begin preparing it for the drop. After the item is in place, the vendor will contact you with the exact location of the drop, usually specified by GPS coordinates and a description. You are then free to go retrieve your “treasure”.
Upon picking up the item, the buyer is expected to confirm with Hydra that they have received their order and it is in good shape, which then allows buyer funds held by market escrow to be released to the vendor. If the item could not be found, is in bad shape or otherwise not what was expected, the buyer can open a dispute against the vendor. Hydra is known for placing large penalties on scamming or dishonest vendors, and rewards long-time honest vendors with special perks. The admins have been at their particular game for a long time and know the importance of being fair when it comes to dispute moderation.
Hydra Market URL: hydram6esdjf6otepmr5c3vjyndsoddz22afphbbjznwb5ln2c6op7ad.onion
Hydra is a one-of-a-kind darknet marketplace that caters exclusively to customers in the Russian Federation, or ex-Soviet Union. There was nothing like it before, and there will be nothing like it after it is finally shut down – or when its operators finally decide to retire – whichever comes first. Efficient and bold yet guided by basic principles of good business practice, there is no reason for Hydra to shut down as it is far too lucrative an enterprise; possibly even sanctioned by the Russian government.
To give you an idea of how big Hydra actually is, it processed more sales in 2020 than all other darknet markets combined, and by a wide margin, too. Hesitant to rely on classic postal techniques in today’s day and age of surveillance, the market’s dead drop system has proven to be immensely popular among the customers in its area of service. As far as darknet markets go, there aren’t many more successful at what they do, and Hydra will serve as a model for generations of future darknet markets to come.