Governments around the world have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to gain access to Tor, the global relay network that allows people to use the internet anonymously. Last year, America's National Security Agency - which has made a habit of sticking its nose into every corner of the digital world - credited Tor as "the king of high secure, low-latency anonymity", adding that "there are no contenders for the throne in waiting."
High praise indeed from the NSA, although Microsoft said more recently that it believes that the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, are capable, to some degree, of monitoring data sent and received by the Tor Browser, even though the network itself has not yet been cracked.
It seems that that's the goal that Russia's government has now set, as Sky News reports. Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs has invited individuals and companies to find a way to crack the Tor network, allowing it to reliably decrypt the data that it carries.
Those wishing to enter the contest must pay a fee of 195,000 roubles (almost $5,600 USD), but the first person or group to crack the network will receive a prize of 4,000,000 roubles (just under $114,000 USD). Only Russian citizens may enter the contest, 'to ensure the defence and security of the Russian Federation'.
There are around 200,000 Tor users in Russia, and as the government there seeks to impose greater control over internet usage and data storage, having thousands of users sending and receiving data anonymously is clearly something that it views as unacceptable.
This week, the Russian parliament approved a law requiring all online companies - including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others - to store data related to Russian citizens in the country, under broader anti-terrorism legislation. Russia is also taking steps to discourage the use of foreign software, in favour of home-grown software solutions.
Source: Sky News