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Russia's 4-Million-Ruble Procurement Order to Crack Tor Is Suddenly Revised

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, U.S.A., Breaking News, Citizen Media, Governance, Technology, RuNet Echo
Rewriting a procurement order to hide the scary stuff? Image edited by author.

Rewriting a procurement order to hide the scary stuff? Image edited by author.

The Russian Interior Ministry has revised the language in a procurement order [1] offering 3.9 million rubles (about USD $100,000) for developing a way to decipher user data on the Tor anonymity network.

Federal authorities published the original announcement on July 11, 2014, but Internet users and the media only became widely aware of the tender yesterday, July 24, following a report [2] on the website TheRuNet.com. Earlier today, July 25, government officials changed the description of the procurement order, removing language about breaching individuals’ digital privacy.

The original name [3] of the procurement order read as follows:

«Выполнение НИР «Исследование возможности получения технической информации о пользователях (пользовательском оборудовании) анонимной сети ТОR», шифр «ТОР (Флот)».

Implementation of research: “Researching the possibility of obtaining technical information about the users (the users’ equipment) of the TOR anonymity network,” codename “TOR (Fleet).”

The new description [4] now found on the state procurement website says simply:

Выполнение научно-исследовательской работы, шифр «ТОР (Флот)»

Implementation of research, codename “TOR (Fleet).”

It is unclear why the Russian government codenamed the Tor network “TOR (Fleet).” Perhaps this is because Moscow originally assigned the codename when Tor, originally known as “the onion routing network,” was still sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Perhaps not, however, as the word “fleet” (also translatable as “navy”) appears in other [5] procurement [6] announcements [7] that have nothing to do with Tor or the United States.

What is clear is that someone in Russia’s procurement office thought it wise to soften the language in the Tor decryption order, presumably to make the government in Moscow seem less bent on violating individuals’ privacy.

Tetyana Lokot assisted in the development of this article. Special thanks to Josef Cox [8] for drawing RuNet Echo's attention to the revision online.