In recent years, the dark web has become a popular destination for people seeking to evade government surveillance. This is partially due to the fact that many of the more popular darknet markets (DNM) are based in Russia, which has been embroiled in a conflict with Ukraine for the past several years. Despite Western sanctions, Russian DNM have proliferated and continue to operate, primarily because they offer a wide range of illicit goods and services. Meanwhile, ransomware groups and high-risk crypto exchanges have also thrived in this environment, as they are well-suited to exploit the vulnerabilities of digital systems. The world’s “first crypto war” is ongoing, and the dark web is playing an important role in fueling its flames.
Russian-Language DNM Proliferates Amid Conflict with Ukraine
Before Russia invaded Ukraine, cryptocurrency exchanges linked to the two countries accounted for over half of the international volumes of illicit crypto funds. Over the past year, however, the blockchain intelligence firm analyzed changes in the illicit crypto ecosystem to find out how cybercriminals are adapting to the financial, political, and logistical disruptions caused by the conflict. Russian-language DNMs have, in fact, replaced the former in the interim, although the authorities have continued to crackdown on them. The TRM report also highlights the politicization of some Russian and Ukrainian hackers, providing an example with Killnet. DNMs and darknet forums have largely remained politically neutral, sources says.
Russian DNM markets and ransomware groups have thrived in spite of sanctions, showing the need for continued vigilance against cyber-crime. The Russian-language marketplaces offer a wide range of illicit goods and services, from drugs and firearms to pirated software and counterfeit products. Continued pressure from international actors, as well as improved cybersecurity efforts by Russian businesses, will be necessary to keep these criminal enterprises at bay.