Russia offers £65,000 bounty to identify users on anonymous Tor network

The news is the latest in Russia's attempts to crack down on net freedom

Russia has offered 3.9 million roubles (£65,000) in a competition for security researchers to identify users on the anonymous Tor network.

Tor, sometimes known as ‘the onion router’, bounces internet traffic around multiple online ‘nodes’ to hide its users. It was originally developed by the US military and is freely available to individuals around the world who wish to dodge government censorship or surveillance.

The prize was posted on the Russian government’s procurement portal by the interior ministry, with the stated aim being to “ensure the country’s defence and security” and is only the latest move in an ongoing crackdown by the Russian government on web freedom,

Last week, Vladimir Putin signed a law that required internet companies to store user information in Russia where it can be freely accessed by intelligence services and in May he introduced a “blogger’s law” requiring any site with more than 3,000 daily visitors to register with the government.

Read more: A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

This law was signed in after Russian censors blocked three popular opposition websites and a blog written by Alexei Navalny – a lawyer and popular critic of the Kremlin.

Russia is not the only country that would like to crack Tor though, with documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggesting that British spy agency GCHQ and the American NSA have made multiple attempts to unmask its users.

Although Tor is often used by journalists and human rights activists (Edward Snowden himself uses Tor to communicate from asylum in Russia) criminals also take advantage of the system’s anonymity, using Tor to sell drugs and images of child abuse online.

In its most recent financial statements, the body that maintains Tor (the Tor project) confirmed that the American Department of Defense remains one of its largest backers, contributing some $830,000 (£489,000) to the group via a non-profit research center.

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