The Russian government hired people to hack the Tor browser, but they failed and now they're quitting
A company hired by the Russian Interior Ministry to identify users of the Tor network, an anonymous Internet browser, has announced its plans to terminate its state contract without finishing the task.
According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the Russian Interior Ministry signed a series of contracts in 2013 and in 2014 with a company called “the Central Scientific Institute for Economics, IT and Management Systems” (CSI EIM) to study and to fight online anonymity. The newspaper reports that CSI EIM has now hired lawyers, in order to terminate its four government contracts.
Information about the contracts between CSI EIM and the Interior Ministry is classified. According to an investigation conducted by Kommersant, however, one of the agreements, under the code name “TOR (Flot),” involved studying how to retrieve information about Tor users and investigating what technologies Tor uses. CSI EIM was supposed to earn 3.9 million rubles ($57,540) for the work.
In addition, CSI EIM won a government contract in 2014 for 20 million rubles ($295,000), known under the code name “Chameleon-2,” involving “the creation of a hardware and software complex for allowing secret and anonymous remote access to strategically important information.”
The Interior Ministry has refused to comment.
According to CSI EIM’s documentation on the State Purchasing Contracts website, the lawyers were needed by the organization in order to “prepare the legal basis for the termination” of four government contracts between CSI EIM and [the organization called] “Special Equipment and Communication,” an Interior Ministry structure. The law firm will also represent CSI EIM in several Defense Ministry lawsuits.
Tor is a free program allowing for anonymous Internet browsing and communication.
In September 2015, the head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy Leonid Levin told Kommersant that the Duma is drafting a ban on Internet anonymizers like Tor.
Tor is banned in China and in Belarus.