The Russian Interior Ministry has posted a tender seeking to find a solution for obtaining information about users of the TOR anonymous network and decrypting intercepted TOR data. For the work it is offering 3.9 million ruble, around $111K or £65.5k, according to a RT report. Flagged by several human rights activists on Thursday, the tender seems to be open only to organisations rated to do secret work for the Russian government.
TOR's stance against government spying via network surveillance has been increasingly popular with Russian Internet users looking to avoid state censorship. It was developed as a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory over a decade ago and anonymises the identity of users online by encrypting their data and sending it through a configuration of nodes known as an onion routing system, making it very hard to connect a particular person to any particular activity.
The project currently has around 4 million users worldwide, many of whom are digital activists in countries with restrictive legislation where technical censorship and surveillance are common. However the system can also be used to conceal potentially illegal activity and has been associated with organised crime, drug trafficking and the exchange and sale of child pornography.
Stanislav Sharikov, leader of the Russian Pirate Party has stated that the Russian government's interest in cracking TOR could be related to genuine police concerns rather than political repression, reports Global Voices. According to Sharikov, the Interior Ministry is more interested in fighting child pornography than anti-Putin dissidents.
A talk scheduled to be presented at the Black Hat hacker conference in August, entitled 'You don't have to be the NSA to Break Tor: De-Anonymizing Users on a Budget,' was also cancelled without explanation earlier this week, perhaps further reflecting Internet users' determination to stay anonymous online.