Russia Is Offering a $100,000 Reward to Anyone Who Can Crack Tor

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 25 2014 5:14 PM

Russia Is Offering a $100,000 Reward to Anyone Who Can Crack Tor

The Snowden revelations may have been shocking, but you can't beat that user bump.

Graph from Tor.

If you want privacy while you’re browsing the Web, Tor is a solid anonymity service to turn to. It’s a network that uses thousands of volunteer relays worldwide to bounce Internet traffic around until you can’t tell where it originated. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of groups (mainly governments) that would rather this system not work. The Russian government is even offering 3.9 million roubles—about $111,000—to the person or research group that can figure out who uses Tor.

The Daily Dot reports that the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs issued an open call for Tor-cracking proposals that runs through August. In particular, the MIA wants people to “study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users' equipment on the Tor anonymous network.”


Tor seems like it's everywhere lately. Information from NSA documents obtained by Edward Snowden indicates that the NSA devotes significant resources to trying to crack Tor and de-anonymize its users, even though the U.S. Navy invented Tor and the federal government gives it financial support. And German journalists recently discovered that the NSA considers people who facilitate/use anonymizing services like Tor to be “extremists.”ProPublica realized that the NSA was using Tor's list of directory servers to take names. Merely searching for high-security services like the operating system Tails draws NSA scrutiny.

According to the service’s own data, Tor had a fairly steady number of users—a little less than 1 million per month—before Snowden’s whistleblowing began. Usage spiked dramatically in September 2013, reaching almost 6 million users at its peak. Since then use has fallen gradually to about 2.5 million monthly active users now. 

You have to be a Russian citizen to submit an MIA proposal, so everyone else is out of luck. But if you're a privacy advocate, or just want to know that it is possible to achieve anonymity online, you probably should be using Tor instead of working against it anyway.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.