Russia is offering a $100,000 bounty to identify Tor users

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The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs announced a 3.9 million ruble ($111,290) bounty for anyone who finds a solution that would allow Russian police officers to identify users of Tor, an anonymizer network, as reported by Russia Today. The winner of the bounty will be announced on August 20, with the bounty going unnoticed on the official government procurement website for two weeks. Several human rights activists flagged the notice today. The competition is open to Russian citizens and companies, who are required to pay a 195,000 ruble ($5,555) entry fee.

Russia’s interior ministry has offered up to 3.9m roubles (£65,000) for research on identifying the users of the anonymous browsing network Tor, raising questions of online freedom amid a broader crackdown on the Russian internet. The interior ministry’s special technology and communications group published a tender earlier this month on the government procurement website offering the sum for “research work, Tor cipher”. Before changes to the tender were published on Friday, numerous news outlets reported that it originally sought “research work on the possibility to obtain technical information about users (user equipment) of the anonymous network Tor”. According to Andrei Soldatov, an expert on surveillance and security services, the interior ministry might be exploring possible ways to restrict Tor. But the fact that the tender was publicly announced meant that those seeking greater government control of the internet had defined their next target and were sending “yet another signal” to the online community, he argued. “It’s not important if the Russian government is able to block Tor or not,” Soldatov said. “The importance is that they’re sending signals that they are watching this. People will start to be more cautious.” The interior ministry refused to comment on Friday afternoon.

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