Cicada 3301: An Internet Mystery


On the 4th of January, 2012, a user on 4chan
posted this image to the site’s infamous /b/ or random board. The anonymous author, who went by the four-digit
pseudonym 3301, challenged users to uncover a message hidden within the image. Unbeknownst to those who stumbled across it,
someone had just set in motion one of the most elaborate scavenger hunts the internet
has ever seen. Within minutes of the image being posted someone
discovered that by opening the file using a text editor an appended string of readable
text could be found. The string contained a cipher that, once deciphered,
formed a link to yet another image. At first this appeared to be a dead end but
using an application known as OutGuess users were able to extract hidden information embedded
within the first image. The extracted information lead to a subreddit
which in turn contained information about a book. The book along with a code could
then be used to uncover a phone number that, when called,
played this prerecorded message. By the following day, the initial image had
been reposed all over the internet. A growing community of armchair detectives
sought to unravel this elaborate puzzle but no one was quite sure what to make off it. What was the puzzle for? Who was behind it? What happens when you reach the end? Some naturally dismissed it as an elaborate
joke while others perceived its complexity as evidence against it being the work of a
mere troll. Before long, rumors began to circulate that
this could be the work of some secret society or intelligence agency with the intent of
recruiting individuals proficient in cryptography, steganography,
and other related fields. Of course, it was nothing but a rumor. The two missing numbers mentioned in the recording
proved to be the dimensions of the original image. After multiplying the width and height with
3301 and using the product as a web address, users were taken to a website. The website consisted of a countdown as well
as an image of a cicada. When the countdown reached zero, the page
was updated with a list of coordinates. The coordinates pointed to locations around
the globe. 14 locations in 5 different countries. It was now up to participants living near
the specified coordinates to rise from their comfortable armchairs and venture outside. Those who believed Cicada to be the work of an
organization now felt their beliefs had been justified. In their opinion, only some international
collective possessed the means and resources to create a scavenger hunt of this magnitude. This was not the work of your average troll. No, this had to be something else. At each location was a poster with the cicada
symbol and a QR code. …on the bike shelter over here. See I got it… I got it right there. You can see the corners, I just kinda ripped it off. The codes linked to an image, the image contained
a riddle, the riddle lead to a book, and the book lead to a website. But here, the puzzle took an unexpected turn. Only a select group of first arrivals to this website
were accepted into the final stage of the puzzle. The site eventually closed down with the message: “We want the best, not the followers.” The finalists were also warned not to collaborate
with others nor to share the details of this private stage of the puzzle. Well, given that we know this, it’s safe to
say that not everyone heeded that warning. But those who did presumably advanced through
the final stages before reaching the very end of the puzzle. After nearly a month of silence an image appeared
on the subreddit announcing the conclusion of the puzzle and, just like that, the hunt
was over. Cicada had supposedly found the
“highly intelligent individuals” they were looking for and whatever happened to them is a bit of a
mystery but more on that in a moment. The lack of an explanation was perceived by
many as confirmation that the puzzle had been nothing but a wild-goose chase intent on wasting
everyones time. After all, questions raised by the original
image remained unanswered. What was the puzzle for? Who was behind it? What happens when you reach the end? However, as it later turned out, this was
only the beginning. Whomever was behind this intricate game had
the foresight to include an authentication code known as a PGP signature
along with every clue. This allowed users to verify that an image
or message was actually from Cicada as opposed to some impostor seeking to derail or hijack
the puzzle. Cicada had repeatedly warned of such “false paths”
and insisted that any message lacking a valid PGP signature should promptly be disregarded. That’s why this image, posted exactly a year
and a day after the first, provoked such a frenzy. After a year of lackluster imitations, this
image finally matched the official PGP signature. Cicada was back and it was time for round two. The second puzzle was not too dissimilar from
the first. The image enclosed a message, the message
lead to a book, the book produced a link, and gradually the puzzle unfolded. At one point, a recording titled
The Instar Emergence was uncovered. Another clue lead to a cryptic Twitter account
which then lead to an image. The image proved vital to the progression
of the puzzle but the inclusion of this runic alphabet would remain a mystery for quite
some time. Much like the first puzzle the second swelled
into the physical world when a list coordinates compelled participants to, once again, take
to the streets in search of enigmatic posters. This time it was
8 locations in 4 different countries. But eventually the trail went cold once again. Another select group of first arrivals had
been accepted into a final private stage of the puzzle. Unlike the first puzzle the second did not
conclude with an official message from Cicada. The trail merely went cold and Cicada vanished
once more leaving us no closer to an explanation. However, this was still not the end. At the beginning of 2014
it was time for round three. Once again the image enclosed a message, the
message lead to a book, the book produced a link, and suffice it to say, it was more
of the same. Except, this time, the puzzle seemed to revolve
around a strange book. The book was titled Liber Primus, meaning
First Book in Latin, and was evidently written by Cicada. The runic alphabet uncovered in 2013 finally made
sense as the book was primarily written in runes. Even so, the meaning of the translated pages
were cryptic at best. The book consisted of various philosophical and
idealogical ideas and appeared to be their manifesto. Many have since compared the strange writings
to that of a cult. Nevertheless, the book also comprised a myriad
of clues and codes. For example, this page advised participants
to seek out a website on the deep web but the site remains undiscovered. Another page lead to a website containing
yet another recording titled Interconnectedness. However, a significant portion of the book
has yet to be translated. The runic text on some of the pages appear
to be obfuscated by layers of encryption that has yet to be decrypted. Of the 74 pages featuring runes, only 19 have
been successfully translated. As 2015 came and went without the launch of
a new puzzle, many came to suspect the Liber Primus had to be completed if Cicada was to return. This was more or less confirmed
at the beginning of 2016 when Cicada encouraged
a reexamination of the book. More than four years have now gone by with minimal
progress and near complete silence from Cicada. Questions raised by the original image have
gone ignored. What is the purpose of these puzzles? Who’s behind them? What happens when you reach the end? When the initial image appeared on 4chan back
in 2012 many assumed Cicada 3301 to be an alternate reality game designed by a corporation
to promote a new service or product. For example, Microsoft developed an elaborate
ARG back in 2001 to promote the film Artificial Intelligence and a similar viral marketing
campaign was used to promote the release of Halo 2. But the release of subsequent puzzles and
the complete lack of commercialization has more or less eliminated that possibility. If we choose to believe some of the leaked
information from the private end-stage of each puzzle than we do gain some insight into
who this group might be. For example, at the end of the first puzzle,
finalists supposedly received this email. In it, Cicada describe themselves as an international
group who believe that privacy is an inalienable right. The aim of each puzzle is to recruit
like-minded individuals in an effort to develop
privacy-conscious solutions. The email then concludes with three questions. The PGP signature, which would have confirmed
the authenticity of the email, was conveniently removed by the leaker. If a version with a valid signature does exists
online I was unable to find it. But regardless of it’s legitimacy, I find
this question a bit odd. It reads:
“Do you believe that information should be free?” Assuming the expected answer is yes then the
very first sentence… “DO NOT SHARE THIS INFORMATION!” …seems a bit hypocritical. While the idea of a secret society recruiting
individuals by means of elaborate cryptographic puzzles may seem a bit absurd or even conspiratorial,
it’s not entirely unfounded. Corporations and governments alike have employed
similar recruitment techniques since at least the second World War. In 2013, the British intelligence agency GCHQ
launched a recruitment program known as “Can You Find It?”. Participants had to decrypt a number of cryptograms
hidden across the internet and those who managed to solve the entire puzzle were offered a
prize or a position at the agency. Google did something similar with enigmatic
billboards back in 2004 and the US Navy launched a near-identical project in 2014. Okay, but then, what about the recruits? Why have we not heard from these chosen few? Well, we have. It’s just that separating a legitimate finalist
from an impostor is virtually impossible. In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, two
alleged winners of the first puzzle chronicled the events beyond the final stage. After receiving an email from Cicada they
were taken to a forum on the dark web. Here, they could communicate with some twenty
some odd recruits as well as a handful of established members of Cicada. They were told that Cicada 3301 had been founded
by a group of friends who shared common ideals about security, privacy, and censorship. The goal was to work as a collective to develop
software applications in line with that ideology. As friends recruited friends, this secret
society quickly expanded into a decentralized international organization. The recruits were then tasked with developing
software that fit the ideology of the group and members of Cicada would oversee their
progress. But without the allure of a puzzle to be solved,
the recruits quickly lost interest. By the end of 2012 all but one had left and
a few months later the site was gone. They never heard from Cicada again. One of the two winners, named Marcus Wanner, later
elaborated further in a video by YouTuber Nox Populi. Furthermore, Nox Populi himself claims to
be a winner of the second puzzle so I reached out to him and this is some of what he had
to say. After completing the final stages of the second
puzzle Nox Populi received an invitation to join Cicada 3301. However, he was not invited to a website but
was instead merely told to be patient. Then, around May of 2013, all communication
with Cicada abruptly ceased. This was around the same time as when the
website dedicated to the winners of the first puzzle was suddenly taken down. Nox Populi later contacted other winners of
the second puzzle to compare notes and their experiences were identical. In his own words: “All the stories were the same, we were invited
to join 3301, then something happened and silence followed a request for patience.” Nox Populi suppose that roughly five others
completed the second puzzle in contrast to the twenty-odd winners of the first. In regards to who or what Cicada is, Nox Populi
believes they could be a remnant of the cypherpunk movement of the late 80s and 90s. Essentially a small group of activists advocating
widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies but he admits
that there is no way to know for certain. If you want a far more comprehensive walkthrough
of these puzzles as opposed to my brief overview, Nox Populi has produced a number of videos
on his channel which I highly recommend. While these accounts cannot be verified they
do make for a very compelling argument as to what Cicada is. A group of anonymous developers seeking to
develop privacy-conscious applications by recruiting talented individuals via cryptographic
puzzles. Sure, it is not nearly as exciting as a shadow
government seeking world domination or any of the more fantastical theories but it is
certainly more plausible. You have to keep in mind that no part of these
puzzles would have required more than one person. The posters are often pointed to as evidence
that this must be the work of some international organization but I beg to differ. I mean, right now, I could use any number
of services to hire random persons around the globe to install posters for me. Although, given that no poster was located
more than an hour away from an airport leads me to believe that one or multiple persons
actually traveled to these locations. I mean, some of the posters were found within
walking distance of an international airport. The fact is that anyone with a disposable
income and enough time on their hands would be able to create the illusion of a vast secret
network spanning the globe. Not saying that is the case with Cicada 3301 but it is
nonetheless a possibility that cannot be discounted. With all of that being said, I personally
think a loose-knit group of privacy-minded hobby-cryptographers to be the most plausible
explanation. Cicada made their last public statement in
April of 2017, merely warning against disinformation, but the current status of the third puzzle
and the possibility of a fourth remains clouded in mystery.

100 comments

I think alien are sending this message to find if there is any genius human left which could predict and stop their attack it is like survey by aliens to find if there is any genius left

Does somebody have the track that plays, for example, at 3:34? I know the description says "own work" but maybe he published it.

Liber Primus

A WARNING

BELIEVE NOTHING FROM THIS BOOK
EXCEPT WHAT YOU KNOW TO BE TRUE
TEST THE KNOWLEDGE
FIND YOUR TRUTH
EXPERIENCE YOUR DEATH
DO NOT EDIT OR CHANGE THIS BOOK
OR THE MESSAGE CONTAINED WITHIN
EITHER THE WORDS OR THEIR NUMBERS
FOR ALL IS SACRED

Chapter 1
Intus

WELCOME
WELCOME, PILGRIM, TO THE GREAT JOURNEY TOWARD THE END OF ALL THINGS

IT IS NOT AN EASY TRIP, BUT FOR THOSE WHO FIND THEIR WAY HERE IT IS A NECESSARY ONE

ALONG THE WAY YOU WILL FIND AN END TO ALL STRUGGLE AND SUFFERING, YOUR INNOCENCE, YOUR ILLUSIONS, YOUR CERTAINTY, AND YOUR REALITY

ULTIMATELY, YOU WILL DISCOVER AN END TO SELF

IT IS THROUGH THIS PILGRIMAGE THAT WE SHAPE OURSELVES AND OUR REALITIES
JOURNEY DEEP WITHIN AND YOU WILL ARRIVE OUTSIDE

LIKE THE INSTAR, IT IS ONLY THROUGH GOING WITHIN THAT WE MAY EMERGE

WISDOM

YOU ARE A BEING UNTO YOURSELF

YOU ARE A LAW UNTO YOURSELF

EACH INTELLIGENCE IS HOLY

FOR ALL THAT LIVES IS HOLY

AN INSTRUCTION COMMAND YOUR OWN SELF

SOME WISDOM
THE PRIMES ARE SACRED

THE TOTIENT FUNCTION IS SACRED

ALL THINGS SHOULD BE ENCRYPTED

KNOW THIS

272 138 shadows 131 151
aethereal buffers void carnal 18
226 obscura form 245 mobius
18 analog void mournful aethereal
151 131 cabal 138 272
272 138 341 131 151

366 199 130 320 18

226 245 91 245 226

18 320 130 199 366

151 131 341 138 272

A KOAN
A MAN DECIDED TO GO AND STUDY WITH A MASTER

HE WENT TO THE DOOR OF THE MASTER

"WHO ARE YOU WHO WISHES TO STUDY HERE" ASKED THE MASTER

THE STUDENT TOLD THE MASTER HIS NAME

"THAT IS NOT WHO YOU ARE, THAT IS ONLY WHAT YOU ARE CALLED

WHO ARE YOU WHO WISHES TO STUDY HERE" HE ASKED

GREATEST TROLL in INTERNET HISTORY…
Anyone Who Works for SECRET ORGANIZATION or LOOKING for WORLD ORDER knows the FIRST THING We Do is SPREAD The INFORMATION has TRUTH To EVERYONE in the WORLD Without HIDING Any BULLSHIT like This.

It was NIGERIAN PRINCE Who wanted to Give his 400 $ MILLION DOLLAR WEALTH…
All you have to do is DEPOSIT 1$ MILLION And He will Give 400 $ MILLION.

Idk something still screams the finalists were murdered for black web purposes but at the same time I also wonder if it was also for members of anonymous

The puzzle was a test of the advanced abilities of the public Net users. And 'Victoria's Secret' is, she doesn't wear panties!

Okay so, for the website that they couldn't open/find.
The song probably had something to do with it. Like that was a REALLY long code, so if someone hasn't done something, if you think about it, they had to change the song to do something right? So, what I think, is the notes in the song can also correspond with numbers, right? So like, C=1 D=2 or realted to the key (whatever it was. The starting note of the scale used in the song could be 1 then the next is 2 etc. Etc.) from there cross out based on the numbers and/or the letters. Just a speculation. I'm also really young and know NOTHING about how long the code is supposed to be for searching up something so I don't know if that might work 🤷

I've watched this 23 times since it came out. I'm not kidding – I'm at a point where I crave well-researched videos so badly that I click it whenever I see it in my recommended.

The whole meaning of cicada was to start with a new beginning, a new team made to come together, that few people who surpassed the codes are now or were supposed to be the new group of individuals

Their a group that would hunt down hackers, specifically real good ones, so privacy could be saved. The reason why they want so few, is because if ya get rid of them in very small numbers, they usually get ignored for quite a while. But I guess something leaked out, and they were discovered. Coming from someone who goes through the Dark Web everyday to take out websites with viruses that could lead to people’s deaths, it actually is pretty common.

Clue: Numeral – 4

1013 1311 1231 1201 1313 1201 200 1232 1213 200 1203 1233 1230 1230 1201 1213 1211 200 1232 1201 200 1232 1201 1213 1230 1201 1230 1201 1231 1201 1232 200 1232 1213 200 1231 1213 1201 200 1223 1201 1221 1202 1221 1213 1201 1232 200 1231 1233 200 1210 1221 1310 1233 200 1303 1201 200 1113 1001 1122 232

Pls help me i just got information about whats this its Proportional algorithm and 36 lines head NASA code

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