back to article Russian Tor network-wrecking effort takes bizarre turn

The Russian government's plan to unmask citizens who use the anonymizing network Tor has hit a snag: the company hired to do the job is trying to wriggle out of its contract. In July 2014, the Russian Interior Ministry advertised for a firm to "study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users (user …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Surely they just need to follow US libraries - stick in their own Tor nodes. Eventually some stuff will trickle out. That'll be $59,000 please Mr Putin - you can pay me in Bitcoins (downvote if you don't spot the irony!!!!).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $150k o get out of a $59k contract

    Is it me or is someone stupid?

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Depends on what, if anything, the penalty for breaching it is. It's possible they're on the hook for way more than $59K if they just drop it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It's possible they're on the hook for way more "

        Also, consider whose hook that is ... if kidnapping border guards from a neighbouring country is just fine, then swatting some annoying business you have over a legal barrel isnt going to cause a second thought ...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Like a nice holiday in in the Gulag. Free. Paid for by the state.

      3. James Micallef Silver badge


        "Depends on what, if anything, the penalty for breaching it is"

        A pair of cement shoes and a dip in the Moskva river?

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: $150k o get out of a $59k contract

      In the right circumstances, $1 million or more would be cheap.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $150k to get out of a $59k contract

      That's probably why the article said "and it's clearly not about the money".

  3. Ole Juul

    Makes sense

    I can guess that the company doesn't want the contract and regrets taking it. Perhaps Tor is not as easy a target as was assumed. This case is probably going to be an expensive one as it is dealing with the breaking of a government contract. As far as lawyers fees are concerned, is $150K a lot?

    1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: Makes sense

      $150k is a hell of a lot of money in Russia.

      Still, a few thousand exit nodes would help a lot in compromising the traffic if you own those nodes.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Makes sense

        Maybe they found the only practical way to do what the Russian gov wanted is to run a few thousand Tor exit nodes that actually "work" in the sense of being seen to provide proper connectivity.

        And that would result in jail-time in Russia.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge


    Presumably proving that what the company was being asked to do was not legal would make the contract unenforceable.

  5. Jonathan Richards 1

    Doesn't seem to be very onerous

    In two different articles, El Reg has told us that the contract was for a study into the possibility of cracking ToR (for certain values of cracking). Seems easy to fulfill *that* contract: "We studied it, and don't see any possibility. Please remit 3.9m roubles by return". Of course, if somebody signed up without reading the contract and has found that they're now on the hook for actually supplying a crack, then it will be worth employing m'learned friends to wriggle out. Good luck with that.

    Caveat: I have not read the original tender, in Russian or in translation.

  6. Ian 62



    Its been cracked (either by them or someone else), but theyve just realised, now that its cracked they're quite happy for crims to keep using it.

    If they award for successfully completing the contract then everyone knows its cracked.

    If they make a big media story out of it being 'impossible' then the crims keep using it, while they keep listening in


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, indeed. This has been suggested elsewhere more than once.

      £38,700 would cheap beyond the levels of ludicrousness by American standards- a year's salary for a *single* run-of-the-mill programmer?- and even allowing for Russians' income generally being far lower, along with the fact that the Russian government doesn't have anything like the same silly levels of money to throw at "security" projects like this, it's still low beyond credibility.

      It wouldn't take an overly rabid conspiracist to think that the company had actually got paid a lot more, succeeded to some extent and are putting up this charade to conceal the fact.

  7. Mike Moyle


    ...They cracked it and discovered that most of the Russian users were Putin's good-buddy oligarchs. They are now faced with a choice of WHICH powerful group -- official government or shadow government -- they want to get their legs broken by.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The US government and others have spent much more than that building and sponsoring the Tor network, and plenty of intelligence agencies would pay a lot more for access to the data running over the anonymized network."

    Wasn't it that one of the big Tor nodes resolves to an IP address in Langley, Virginia?

  9. PyLETS

    things are probably not what they seem

    Maybe they are trying to convince Tor users in Russia that they haven't got a clue how to trace them. Well, they would, wouldn't they ?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You'd think a total control freak like Russia would've simply gone "nuclear" and banned any and all use of encryption that can't be unlocked by state-sponsored keys, with stiff gulag time for anyone caught using it. Then they would go after the stego by mandating that any and all audio-visual material be mangled and processed and all test forced to adhere to a strict format and automatic spelling corrector to remove stego in text by odd spacing or spelling errors.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like