Cicada 3301: Behind The Internet's Most Mysterious Cryptographic Puzzles

What Happened Then?

Cicada 3301, cryptography and the quest for anonymity
Yes, I wish to receive exclusive discounts, special offers and competitions from our partners. To find them, we have devised a test. OK, this is probably getting pretty weird by now — what exactly is Cicada ? To say that there is any connection between Cicada and Anonymous is quite a leap, and there is nothing more than half-reliable circumstantial evidence to that, but there definitely are some similarities between the two. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. Blind football player scores 2 touchdowns.

Commentary

Cicada 3301: I tried the hardest puzzle on the internet and failed spectacularly

Some of the theories about who is behind the puzzle include the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency or a secret society. Some have speculated that the puzzle is a recruitment program or an alternate reality game, where players collect clues, interact with other players and solve puzzles in real life. According to the participants online, when the image was opened in a text editing program, a cryptic message appeared that was interpreted as a Web address.

Those who were trying to solve the mystery were led to a website, which in turn led to a Reddit. Several more clues were uncovered -- including hidden messages that suggested the key to breaking the code was already posted on the a2e7j6ic78h0j forum.

Once decoded, a U. The number, which has since been disconnected, had a message for callers that was yet another clue. This time, a riddle led to a website that had a picture of a cicada and what appeared to be geographic coordinates. According to online reports , posters were found at some of the locations around the world, including Paris, Warsaw, Seoul and Miami. Each poster had an image of a cicada and a QR code that, when scanned, revealed a message.

One of the people working with him sent his brother out to see one of the posters, which was located in Australia, in real life.

It was a physical piece of the worldwide puzzle that they could confirm existed. Imagining they have access to all these different places around the world at the same time kind of blew all our minds. After a series of increasingly intricate clues, a final message was discovered on the Reddit forum with the symbols and coded text that read:.

Thus our month-long journey ends. Thank you for your dedication and effort. If you were unable to complete the test, or did not receive an email, do not despair.

There will be more opportunities like this one. Soon after, the trail went cold and no new clues were release until a year later on Jan. Just like the previous year, a similar trail of clues was revealed after the initial image appeared on 4chan, including a sequence of prime numbers, an audio file and a mysterious Twitter account tweeting coded messages.

One of the clues post on Wikia led to a bizarre test that was reportedly emailed to participants asked multiple-choice questions like: One of the final pieces of the puzzle is an email that was reportedly sent to those who passed the test. What little information is known about Cicada has been posted on websites like Wikia and Github , but no one seems to know who is behind the puzzle and what their motives may be for creating such an elaborate trail of clues.

Zuckerberg acknowledges there was "a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us". Together, they're responsible for the personal data of 50 million people being pulled from Facebook. As the digital fortress was chipped away, several bizarre clues were revealed. To stand a chance of solving the puzzle by yourself, you would need knowledge of Mayan numerology, classical music, cyberpunk literature and medieval Welsh poetry. Hinging solutions on such esoteric references might seem unnecessarily biased.

No doubt the clues lent a compelling mystique, but pre-eminent Cicada challenger,. Joel Eriksson, an IT expert from Sweden , suggests that they were more than pretentious gimmicks. They may be related to the crypto-anarchy movement, or perhaps they just share common values.

Government intelligence agencies have recruited code-breakers through similar puzzles in the past. Those tenacious enough to visit the locations reported back to internet forums having found the same thing; a poster displaying an image of the insect cicada, and beneath it a QR code which, when scanned by smartphones, took solvers to yet another web address. What is not disputed is that the demand for experts in encryption and IT security has never been greater. But Richard Rigby, director of intelligence at Cadre Consultants , a London-based IT security company, imagines a different role for the Cicada recruits.

Encrypted digital currency Bitcoin has surged in value this year. This has led to a digital gold rush among those keen to invest. Admittedly the race is expected to last years, but what would be the value of that currency then compared to now? Bitcoins are created through a series of complex computations that, according to Rigby, are very similar to Cicada puzzles.

Whether their efforts will uncover the true nature of Cicada is another question entirely.

A Wild-Bug Chase: Cracking Cicada 3301, the Internet’s Biggest Puzzle