Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Putin's Next Pursuit: Exposing Tor Network

Russian police offered more than $100,000 for a feasibility study on deanonymizing users on the Tor privacy network. A Russian researcher has figured out how to do it, but he won't take the money.
We could do with $114,000 from the Russian Interior Ministry.
We could do with $114,000 from the Russian Interior Ministry.

The Russian Interior Ministry is offering $114,000 to anyone who can help it unmask users of Tor, the Web's most popular online privacy and anti-censorship tool. Coincidentally, a Russian researcher at Carnegie Mellon University has apparently discovered a way to reveal the identities of Tor users, but the university stopped him from presenting his findings at a conference.

It would not be much of an exaggeration to call Tor the backbone of the Dark Web, where communication is encrypted, users are anonymous and sites are not indexed by search engines. Developed originally with the help of the U.S. Navy, Tor is now supported, like many open-source software projects, by a nonprofit foundation, and is a thorn in the side of intelligence services everywhere. Tor is a distributed network in which encrypted information bounces between servers run by thousands of volunteers, making the data hard to track. The layered structure explains the original name, The Onion Router, now shortened to Tor. Despite the system's complexity, nontechnical people can easily download and use Tor software.