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Russia wants to crack Tor, offers $100000 to identify users

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The announcement, which came from Russia's interior ministry, was made early in July with a tender amount intended for Tor cipher through research work. Prior to this, several news companies have reported that the ministry originally wanted the research work to focus on obtaining technical data of Tor users.

Andrei Soldatov, a surveillance and security services expert, argues on the notion that the interior ministry is in fact exploring ways on how the government can restrict users of Tor. "It's not important if the Russian government is able to block Tor or not," he said. "The importance is that they're sending signals that they are watching this. People will start to be more cautious."

Based on the number of Tor users worldwide, Russia ranks fifth with the number of users said to have a twofold increase in June. Exact figures would reveal a staggering number of over 210,000 users compared the past recorded number of 80,000. The increased activity prompted Russia to create the so-called "bloggers law." Signed in May by Russian president Vladimir Putin, the law requires any site to be government-registered when it shows a recorded daily visit of 3,000 users. People from the media believe that the law would create opposing views and discourage people from criticizing the government over the Internet.

The Russian government seemed to be more serious than ever on its scheme to regulate the Russian-based users' internet activity by authoring the above-mentioned law. As a result, three major news sites, alleged to be anti-government, have already been blocked. In March, the government blocked access to the blog of Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption promoter. The blocked news sites can only be accessed by going to sites that feature anonymising services. Perhaps, the demand to gain access has increased dramatically which would explain why Tor users are now the Russian government's new "apple of the eye."

Recently, Putin signed a law that requires internet companies to keep track of in-country data of all users in Russia. This would enable the Russian intelligence services to easily access electronic-based data with the help of telecoms companies. Law critics expressed that the move will affect the operation of major sites in Russia such as Twitter and Facebook.

The $100000 reward offer of the Russian government only applies to citizens and companies of Russia. To join, users should spend a whopping $5,555 for them to become eligible participants. All proposals must be in by August 13. The announcement of the "lucky" Tor cracker will be made seven days after the deadline.

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