What is Cicada 3301?The internet’s most complex puzzle no one has solved

Most of us would like to believe that we are among the smartest people in the world. When we see tests pop up online that have the potential to confirm our intelligence, we jump on it.

So when a series of puzzles known as Cicada 3301 began appearing online more than a decade ago, it was no wonder that people near and far scrambled to become part of a group of individuals picked by a mysterious organization.

What is Cicada 3301?

Cicada 3301 first appeared on the Internet on January 4, 2012. It is considered the hardest puzzle on the internet and is used to vet potential employees for an anonymous company.

The test, which first appeared on Reddit and 4Chan, reads:

“Hello, we are looking for high IQ individuals. To find them we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it and it will lead you to us. We look forward to meeting the few who will make it all the way …good luck.3301.

via Wikimedia Commons

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It was thought that solving the Cicada 3301 puzzle would lead to finding out who was behind it. Along with the first test, two additional tests were released on January 4, 2013 and 2014. As each test is passed, the difficulty level increases for the next one.

The aim is to identify people with broad computer science knowledge. In order to solve the puzzles, participants must have code-breaking expertise such as encoding, encryption, decryption cryptography, steganography, etc.

Cicada 3301 is an elaborate scavenger hunt that has captured the attention of the world. But to this day, it remains the biggest mystery on the internet, and it didn’t lead to the unveiling of the original poster who created the puzzle.

Cicada Puzzle

According to those trying to solve the puzzle, each of the three “clues” gets progressively more difficult as they progress from one to the next. All three tests require knowledge of various concepts in computer science.

encrypted image

To start this recruiting contest, a picture is shown that must be opened in the plain text editor WordPad. Only then will the contestants realize that a decoding method called a Caesar cipher must be used to translate the encrypted message, revealing a URL.

various roles

The text used in the competition contains a whole host of characters, including Mayan numerals, monograms and book codes. Additionally, images of King Arthur and the Holy Grail are included.

telephone number

Not only need to concentrate on reading the text, but also need a little mathematical knowledge.

Participants who pass the first task will be given a phone number that will lead to the next clue. The clue was an image containing several hidden prime numbers.

The task is to identify two additional prime numbers, multiply them, and add a field to the answer.

mysterious url

After discovering the domain in question, players would go there to find a picture of a cicada on the screen and an associated countdown timer set to expire in three days.

GPS coordinates

After three days, the URL revealed 14 GPS coordinates around the world, in places like Seattle, Warsaw, Seoul, Paris, Sydney, Miami, Hawaii, and New Orleans.

QR code

The next step is to travel to these locations, which requires dedication and resources from the participants. Upon arrival, they find a leaflet at each destination, attached to a street lamp, with a QR code or an image of another cicada.

Scanning the QR code takes you to another URL that contains lines from William Gibson’s poem “Agrippa (Book of the Dead).” This thread leads them to the Tor browser, a tool that prevents anyone from spying on their web activity or accessing the dark web.

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Cicada 3301 Results

The original scavenger hunt apparently ended a month later when the anonymous group posted the following message on 4Chan:

“We’ve now found who we were looking for. This concludes our month-long journey. You’re no doubt wondering what we’re up to, we’re a lot like a *think tank* as our main focus is research and developing technology Come help us promote the idea of ​​freedom, privacy and security.”

A man named Marcus Wanner tackled the conundrum by claiming to be asked to give his opinion on whether censorship is wrong or not, as well as privacy and freedom.

According to him, the person who answered correctly was invited to a private meeting and instructed to work on a project he failed to complete.

Speculation about the identity of the people behind Cicada 3301 ranges from cults to secret societies, but only one piece of information is considered credible.

A leaked email from a contestant who won the 2012 challenge shared the letters they received from the group:

“You all want to know who we are, so we’re going to tell you now. We’re an international group. We don’t have a name. We don’t have a symbol. We don’t have a membership register. We don’t have a public website, and we don’t advertise. …

We are a group of people who have proven themselves by completing this recruitment competition, and just like you, we are brought together by a common belief…

A close reading of the text used in the contest reveals some of its beliefs: that tyranny and oppression of any kind must end, that censorship is wrong, and that privacy is an inalienable right. “

Many consider Cicada 3301 to be a game or publicity stunt, similar to Microsoft’s “Halo 2,” which was preceded by an alternate reality game called ILoveBees. Again, three months later, it ended with an invitation to play the game.

We may never know who created Cicada 3301, but at least it’s going to be the most mysterious and difficult puzzle to appear online.

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NyRee Ausler is an author from Seattle, Washington and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle, entertainment and news, and tackles workplace and social issues.

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