Russia is looking for hackers to help take down the anonymity of the Tor network.
In a posting to Russia government’s procurement portal earlier this month, the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) offered a 3.9 million rubles (roughly $109,000 USD) reward for research on methods for identifying Tor users.
Originally posted July 11, the posting was updated July 25 to remove specific information about what the offer is about. The competition is only open only to Russian citizens and requires an application fee of 195,000 rubles (roughly $5,500 USD). Proposals are due August 13, and the proposals will be assessed August 20.
Tor was originally a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and works by directing Internet traffic through a worldwide network of several thousand relays. The software is widely used by political activists, journalists and Internet users concerned with privacy, but it is used by criminals seeking to hide their identities as well. As a result, law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have tried to find ways to identify users as part of investigations. The network is also the target of intelligence operations as well.
“It is certainly interesting as a publicity stunt, but it is likely to take a lot more than $100,000 worth of research or incentive to motivate someone to break Tor,” said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos. “It would be a great way to thumb your nose at the US government, but if that is your goal you wouldn’t need the rubles, would you?”
Tor security was in the news last week after the organizers of the Black Hat USA conference announced that a presentation on unmasking the identities of hundreds of thousands of Tor clients and thousands of hidden services was cancelled.