Published on July 26th, 2014 📆 | 4870 Views ⚑
Russia Offers $111,000 to Any Citizen Who Can Crack Tor Anonymity Network
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) issued a notice on its official procurement website, originally posted
on July 11, under the title “Perform research, code ‘TOR’ (Navy)
,” an open call for Tor-cracking proposals whose winner will be chosen by August 20.
The MIA specifically wants researchers to “study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users' equipment on the Tor anonymous network,” according to a translated version of the Russian government’s proposal.
Only Russian nationals and companies are allowed to take part in the competition "in order to ensure the country's defense and security." The participants require to pay a 195,000 ruble (about $5,555) application fee in order to participate in the competition.
Tor, which was actually invented at the U.S. Navy, anonymizes the identity of an online user by encrypting their data and sending it through a unique configuration of nodes known as an onion routing system – making it difficult to trace.
Now in the hands of a nonprofit group, the project continues to receive millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. government every year, but boasts approximately 4 million users worldwide, among them many tech-savvy digital activists in countries where technical censorship and surveillance are prevalent.
Tor has encountered problems in Russia before. Nonetheless, the MVD had previously sought to ban the use of any anonymizing software, though the proposal was dropped last year.
Tor has been the constant target of government intelligence agencies and other entities seeking to unveil the identities of anonymous Internet users. Even the U.S. government intelligence agency NSA and U.K. intelligence GCHQ made multiple attempts and spend significant resources to target users of Tor and to break Tor program’s anonymity as revealed by Global surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden last year.
Last year, it was revealed that a zero-day vulnerability in Firefox was used to unmask users of the privacy-protecting “hidden services” Tor, which was estimated to be an effort of the FBI in order to crack down on Freedom Host, a Tor server provider, as part of a child pornography case.
A talk at the upcoming Black Hat security conference in August entitled 'You don't have to be the NSA to Break Tor: De-Anonymizing Users on a Budget,' by the researchers from Carnegie Mellon University was abruptly pulled earlier this week, because the materials they would discuss have not been approved for public release by the university or the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).