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Cicada 3301

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Cicada 3301

Cicada 3301 logo

Cicada 3301 is a name given to an enigmatic organization that on three occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles and alternate reality games to recruit "highly intelligent individuals" from the public.[1] The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, and ran for approximately one month. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013, and a third round is ongoing following confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014.[2][3] The stated intent was to recruit "intelligent individuals" by presenting a series of puzzles which were to be solved, each in order, to find the next. No new puzzles were published on January 4, 2015. The puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography.[1][4][5][6][7]

It has been called "the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age"[8] and is listed as one of the "top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the internet" by The Washington Post,[9] and much speculation exists as to its purpose. Many have speculated that it is a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, or a cyber mercenary group.[1][5] Others have claimed it is an alternate reality game, but the fact that no company or individual has taken credit or tried to monetize it, combined with the fact that none who have solved the puzzles have ever come forward, has led most to feel that it is not.[8] Others have claimed it is run by a bank working on cryptocurrency.[8]

Purpose

The stated purpose of the puzzles each year has been to recruit "highly intelligent individuals," though the ultimate purpose remains unknown.[1] Some[10] have claimed that Cicada 3301 is a secret society with the goal of improving cryptography, privacy and anonymity.[11]

Resolution

The ultimate outcome of all three rounds of Cicada 3301 recruiting is still a mystery. The final known puzzles became both highly complex and individualized as the game unfolded. Anonymous individuals have claimed to have "won," but verification from the organization was never made and the individuals making the claim have not been forthcoming with information.[5][6][12]

An email was reportedly sent to some individuals who completed the 2012 puzzle, revealing that those who successfully solved the puzzles were given a personality assessment. Those who passed this stage were reportedly admitted into the organization, although nothing more is known.[11]

It is known rather see "mother and son should not read it 'cause you guys do that was wrong" (First) and "13 child mother paula" (Second) ASCII codes.

Extracted from the binary sequences:

01101101 01101111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01110011 01101111 01101110 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110101 01101100 01100100 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100100 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100000 00100111 01100011 01100001 01110101 01110011 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100111 01110101 01111001 01110011 00100000 01100100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01110111 01110010 01101111 01101110 01100111 (First)

00110001 00110011 00100000 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101100 01100100 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110000 01100001 01110101 01101100 01100001 (Second)

Types of clues

The Cicada 3301 clues have spanned many different communication media including internet, telephone, original music, bootable Linux CDs, digital images, physical paper signs, and pages of unpublished cryptic books. In addition to using many varying techniques to encrypt, encode or hide data, these clues also have referenced a wide variety of books, poetry, artwork and music.[1] Each clue has been signed by the same GnuPG private key to confirm authenticity.[7][13]

Among others, these referenced works include:

Physical locations of clues

Throughout the testing, multiple clues have required participants to travel to various places to retrieve the next clue. These clue locations have included the following cities:

Speculation that the Cicada 3301 organization is large and well-funded is supported by the existence of clues in a large number of locations, all quite distant from one another, appearing at the same time.[5][6]

Allegations of illegal activity

Authorities from the Los Andes Province of Chile claim that Cicada 3301 is a "hacker group" and engaged in illegal activities. Cicada 3301 responded to this claim by issuing a PGP-signed statement denying any involvement in illegal activity. A searching of the only known Cicada member on the regular Internet, known as C3301-17U, shows no evidence of illegal activity, but nobody has full proof that Cicada was or is involved in illegal activity.[14][15]

In July 2015, a group calling themselves "3301" claimed to have hacked Planned Parenthood;[16] however, the group appears to have no connection to Cicada 3301.[17] Cicada 3301 later issued a PGP-signed statement stating they "are not associated with this group in any way" and also stated that Cicada 3301 does not "condone their use of our name, number, or symbolism."[18] The hacker group later confirmed that they are not affiliated with Cicada 3301.[19]

Influence

The United States Navy released a cryptographic challenge based on the Cicada 3301 recruitment puzzles in 2014 calling it Project Architeuthis.[20][21]

"Nautilus", the September 30, 2014, episode of the TV show Person of Interest, featured a large-scale game very similar to the Cicada 3301 puzzles. Both feature a series of worldwide cryptographic puzzles, but instead of a cicada logo, these feature the image of a nautilus.[22] Person of Interest creator Jonathan Nolan and producer Greg Plageman stated in an interview that Cicada 3301 was the inspiration for the episode: "Episode 2, I’m particularly fascinated by the subject underneath it. Look up Cicada 3301 on the internet. It’s a very interesting concept out there that we then put into a larger story that connects to our show."[23]

"Just a Regular Irregular", the November 13, 2014, episode of the TV show Elementary, featured a "math hunt", specifically mentioning its similarity to the Cicada 3301 puzzles multiple times.[24]

The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May, the postmodernist novel by House of Leaves author Mark Z. Danielewski references Cicada 3301.[25]

See also

References

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