Russia publicly joins war on Tor privacy with $111,000 bounty

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has offered a 3.9 million ruble (approximately $111,000) contract for technology that can identify the users of Tor, the encrypted anonymizing network used by Internet users seeking to hide their activities from monitoring by law enforcement, government censors, and others.

In a notice on the Russian government’s procurement portal under the title “Perform research, code ‘TOR’ (Navy),” originally posted on July 11, the MVD announced it was seeking proposals for researchers to ”study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users equipment on the Tor anonymous network.” The competition, which is open only to Russian citizens and companies, requires entrants to pay a 195,000 ruble (approximately $5,555) application fee. Proposals are due by August 13, and a winner of the contract will be chosen by August 20.

The MVD had previously sought to ban the use of any anonymizing software. That proposal was dropped last year. However, a new “blogger law” passed in April, which goes into effect in August, requires all bloggers with an audience of over 3,000 readers to register their identity with the government—and enforcement of the law could be made difficult if bloggers use the Tor network to retain their anonymity.

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