Russia Wants to Expose Tor for Fun and Profit

By Adam Clark Estes on at

Crack your knuckles, and raid your piggy banks, hackers! Russia is offering a 3.9 million ruble (£65,000) contract to the first person who can come up with a good way to discover the personal information of otherwise anonymous Tor users. But there's a catch. The privilege of competing will cost you 195,000 ruble (£3,200).

So this is funny on a couple of different levels. As cybersecurity news, it's a little bit ridiculous. Tor, originally developed by the US Navy, is a suite of tools that enables internet users to remain anonymous online, and it's a pretty good one, too. We learned a few months ago that the NSA's been trying—and failing—to crack Tor for a while. Presumably, the cybersecurity genius who finally finds the key could fetch a contract worth more than the price of a giant TV.

Then there's the matter of the so-called application fee. It's really expensive! Seriously, £3,200 is a hefty sum in any country, much less one where the average annual income is only about £6,000. The competition is open only to Russian citizens, so there's a limited field of participants. And even besides all of that, it's entirely likely that a team from Carnegie Mellon has already figured out how to uncloak Tor users, based on the recently reported dust-up between the university's security researchers and the university's lawyers.

Why should the Russian government care, though? It'll only take about 20 applicants for them to cover the cost of the prize contract. After that, and any associated bureaucratic costs, Russia's just collecting profits. [Ars Technica via BBC]