Electronic billboards in Moscow attracted the attention of locals and Russian media over the weekend. The large signs had the words “Come to me if you’re looking for the greatest” and a picture of a woman wearing a futuristic mask. The said company, BlackSprut, is a Russian-linked darknet drug trading network that mainly caters to customers in Eastern Europe. Along with OMG, Kraken, and Mega, it ranks among the top black markets in Russia.
BlackSprut’s open promotion of its services in the Russian capital could signify a number of things: The billboards were either hacked, the owners were unaware of the platform’s illicit behavior, or no one in a position of authority bothered to care. One outlet at least wondered if it was the first time such a campaign was so well publicized.
Although the reason for the commercials’ approval is unclear, BlackSprut is recognized for its support of the Kremlin. Its administrators allegedly gave cryptocurrency to paramilitary militants who supported Russia so they could purchase weapons and body armor. The group is in favor of Russia invading Ukraine.
Safe Haven For Darknet Advertisement
These positions are not unusual. Another drug marketplace with ties to Russia, Solaris, was allegedly funding the pro-Kremlin organization Killnet when rival Kraken breached it in January. Killnet is infamous for carrying out distributed denial-of-service attacks against Ukraine and its allies.
The advertisements indicate a certain degree of laxness in Russia in a broad sense. According to a report by Hold Security, the nation is seen as “a safe haven” for illegal narcotics and “a fertile ground” for darknet sites that provide illegal drugs to tens of thousands of consumers.
Additionally, money has a tendency to stay local. According to blockchain analytics company Chainalysis, money received by the sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Garantex accounted for a record $20 billion of illicit cryptocurrency use last year. According to the researchers, the majority of this activity is “likely Russian users using a Russian exchange.”
BlackSprut Increasing Dominance
BlackSprut offers one advantage over other marketplaces that can be challenging for new users to find in the darknet: it has an access point on the public web, increasing the platform’s visibility.
The marketplace processes illicit transactions through the U.S.-approved cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato. Bitzlato was previously charged with helping customers make transactions on Hydra, once the biggest darknet bazaar in the world, and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to blockchain intelligence company TRM Labs, BlackSprut is one of Hydra’s successors and currently holds 28% of the global darknet market share, ahead of Mega (22%), OMG (17%), and BlackSprut.
According to TRM Labs, because darknet marketplaces are anonymous and quickly relocate to new infrastructure, it has never been easy for law enforcement to seize them. In addition, Russia frequently declines to send its cyber criminals overseas, where they would be subjected to harsher penalties than at home.
Cybercrimes are typically investigated slowly and ineffectively in Russia. For instance, the Russian government was only able to prosecute the eight suspects with payment card fraud following the conclusion of the investigation into the famed REvil ransomware group in February, not with their involvement in the ransomware assaults that netted more than $200 million.
Products Available On Blacksprut
Blacksprut has the following categories of listings, many of which have many subcategories: Pharmaceuticals, Dissociatives, Marijuana, Opiates, Psychedelics, Stimulants, Chemical Reagents/Precursors, Ecstasy, Entheogens, Euphoretics, Bases for Smoking Mixtures, Other, Work, Medicine, Advertising, Ways to Make Money, Counterfeit Money, and Cannabinoids. Mephedrone, hash, alpha-PVP, and marijuana seem to be the most sought-after items on Blacksprut.
Over the weekend, electronic billboards in Moscow caught the attention of both locals and Russian news outlets. The large signs had the words “Come to me if you’re looking for the greatest” and a picture of a woman wearing a futuristic mask. BlackSprut is a Russian network for buying and selling drugs on the dark web. Most of its customers are in Eastern Europe. Along with OMG, Kraken, and Mega, it is one of the top black markets in Russia. BlackSprut’s open advertising of its services in the Russian capital could mean a number of things. Either the billboards were hacked, the owners were unaware of the platform’s illegal behavior, or no one in a position of power cared. At least one news outlet wondered if this was the first time such a campaign had been so well publicized.