The Russian government is offering almost 4 million ruble which is approximately equal to $111,000 to the one who can devise a reliable technology to decrypt data sent over the Tor, an encrypted anonymizing network used by online users in order to hide their activities from law enforcement, government censors, and others.
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.