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What is Cicada 3301?

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On 4th January 2012, the hardest puzzle on the internet was born named “Cicada 3301”. It is believed to be the most “elaborated and mysterious puzzle of the internet age“. The name Cicada 3301 is given to a mysterious organization that has thrice posted sets of puzzles to recruit the most fastest and intelligent code breakers from all over the world. This puzzle was initially posted on sites like Reddit and 4chan and ran for nearly a month. The puzzle stated: 

“Hello, we are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck. 3301”.

The second puzzle was posted one year later on January 4, 2013, followed by the third puzzle on January 4, 2014, that is exactly after a year on the same day. The first clue was posted on Twitter. Another clue was posted on Twitter on January 5, 2016. However, the third puzzle is yet to be solved. These puzzles are solved by using techniques like encryption, decryption, decoding ciphers using cryptographic techniques, steganography, and various code-breaking techniques. 

Purpose of Cicada 3301

It is believed that the result of solving the puzzle would lead the individuals to know who these people are. Once the participants solve one puzzle they are given another puzzle with much increasing difficulty level. The participants are expected to have deep knowledge regarding: Coding, Cryptography, Encryption, Steganography, etc. 
It is a huge mystery as to who are these people who created this puzzle and what is the reason behind wanting such intelligent individuals in a team. Certain claims have been made that believed it to be a secret society while others believed that Cicada 3301 is a cult or religion. According to statements of several people, who won the 2012 puzzle, 3301 typically uses non-puzzle-based recruiting methods but created the Cicada puzzles because they were looking for potential members with cryptography and computer security skills. The facts are yet unknown. 

Type of Clues And Facts About Cicada 3301

Unlike a normal puzzle, Cicada 3301 prepares the most unique and difficult type of clues that no individual could solve without proper knowledge about various important concepts of computer science. The types of clues and facts about Cicada 3301 are as follows : 

  • An image was given. After opening the image in a text-only editor WordPad, the participants realized that an encrypted message was given that had to be deciphered using the Caesar Cipher decoding method. The clue later led to a URL.
  • Some clues led to Mayan numerals, a confused mixture of letters, book codes, King Arthur and the Holy Grail and images.
  • After solving these clues, led the participants to a phone number that directed them to the next clue where they were given an image with a couple of prime numbers hidden in it. Participants were asked to find the other two prime numbers, multiply those numbers together, and add a domain to it.
  • The URL later led to a picture of a Cicada on the screen and a countdown was set that would expire in three days.
  • After the three days countdown, the website revealed 14 GPS coordinates across the world of the locations that included Warsaw, Seoul, Paris, Sydney, Hawaii, Miami, New Orleans, and Seattle.
  • After visiting the locations of the given GPS coordinates, the participants found flyers taped to a streetlight with an image of Cicada and a QR code.
  • The QR codes after scanning linked to new URLs which featured lines from the William Gibson poem “Agrippa (A Book of the Dead).” It led to a Tor browser. Clues led to the dark web too.
  • After a month of conducting this insanely complicated worldwide scavenger hunt, the creators of Cicada 3301 left the following message on 4Chan:

“We have now found the individuals we sought. Thus our month-long journey ends. You are undoubtedly
wondering what it is that we do we are much like a * think tank * in that our primary focus is on
researching and developing techniques to aid the ideas we
advocate liberty privacy security”.

Cicada 3301 Resolution

Cicada 3301 is one of the most debatable topics among people who solve technology-related puzzles. Joel Eriksson and Marcus Wanner are among the few people who’ve managed to solve cicada but yet couldn’t get the opportunity to know who is behind all this.

  • According to Marcus, the ones who solved the puzzle were asked questions about their support of information freedom, online privacy and freedom, and rejection of censorship. Those who answered satisfactorily at this stage were invited to a private meeting, where they were instructed to devise and complete a project. He couldn’t complete his work on a method of general decryption and the website was removed.
  • According to Joel, he was directed to an address on the anonymous Tor network. The coordinates led to telephone poles in countries around the world, including in Spain, Russia, America, France, Japan, and Poland, therefore Eriksson had to rely on other people for help. However, when he reached there, Cicada 3301 had put up a message stating that they were disappointed in the groups of people that had formed to share parts of the puzzles they discovered without anyone member completing all the steps along the way, as Eriksson had done. He used some help to get there.

Cicada 3301 not yet proven to be a legal intelligence agency or similar organization to use non-traditional forms of recruitment or an underground organization not related to any official purposes. However, if it is dangerous or the mission of a secret underground organization is yet to be known.

Last Updated : 02 Oct, 2022
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