updated 03:27 pm EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Prize offered to help Russian police track Tor users
The Russian government is offering a bounty for anyone who works out how to track Tor users. A prize of 3.9 million rubles ($111,000) from Russia's Interior Ministry has been set for anyone able to provide a tool capable of monitoring the movements of one individual user on the Tor network, following a rise of the number of users of the anonymizing network in the country.
The request for submissions, made on a government website two weeks ago but has only just been brought to light according to Russia Today, has since been modified by the government to remove the public description, though it is understood the winner of the prize will be revealed on August 20th.
Sarkis Darbinyan, a lawyer for the Pirate Party in Russia, advises the Russian government is keen to prevent Internet users from spreading dissent or from seeing such messages elsewhere. "Law enforcers are worried about the ability of Internet users to anonymously visit the Internet, and particularly blocked sites," said Darbinyan. "Also, the new blogging law that comes into force in August says that all bloggers with a daily audience of over 3,000 must register their identity. But someone blogging through Tor can do so anonymously."
While Russia has approximately 30 million households able to access the Internet, only a small number are using tools such as Tor. Even so, it is believed the number of Tor users in the country has increased from 80,000 in May to almost 200,000 this month.
The advantages of tracking users on anonymizing services aren't lost on other security services. Das Erste claimed earlier this month that the NSA has actively watched two Tor servers based in Germany, with the agency reportedly using a tool called Xkeyscore to try and track users. Earlier this week, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon were forced to pull their Black Hat hacker conference presentation on deanonymizing Tor users after university lawyers stepped in, claiming approval to disclose the method had not been given. According to The Guardian, the talk would have explained how "hundreds of thousands of Tor clients" and other hidden services could be deanonymized "within a couple of months" for $3,000.