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Cicada 3301: Unsolved Internet Mystery

The world is full of mysteries. Some mysteries were solved by some master minds, some were just made up things yet, there are thousands of phenomena where we can’t find proper answers. Such series of mystical incidents started to escalate into the cyber arena in 2012. A group called “Cicada 3301” posted a puzzle to the internet on January 4th, 2012. This puzzle took the internet by storm and millions attempted to solve it. The puzzle was focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography. Here we are going to tell the story what happened from there.

Cicada 3301

Cicada 3301’s 1st puzzle was initially posted on sites like 4Chan and Reddit. It was just a simple message.The first round of the puzzle endeavor lasted about a month. So did anyone solve the puzzle? Yes, there were some individuals who claimed. To solve the puzzle the solvers had to go through a long process involved in cyberpunk literature to voicemail messages to posters affixed to streetlights around the globe. The winners of the puzzle were not announced, nor the identity of the Cicada 3301 was revealed. The same process started on the same day for another two years. In 2013 solvers were faced with another onerous range of context ranging from ancient Hebrew code tables to Anglo-Saxon ancient letters to Victoria occultist Aleister Crowley. This time the contest lasted few weeks and only a few of selected were allowed to the “inner sanctum” of Cicada.

Cicada 3301-2

In the first weeks of 2014, the Cicada 3301 came to the arena again. But this time the approach was different.The widespread coverage of the campaign led the audience to think the organization might have roots run to the dark underground. They were able to circulate posters all over the world in one night. Even some people suspected hoaxers are passing their fraud puzzles as legitimate Cicada tests. But Cicada tweeted later saying “Hello, Epiphany is upon you. Your pilgrimage has begun. Enlightenment awaits. Good luck. 3301.”

Surprisingly there were no puzzles released on January 4th of 2015 as expected. However, a new clue was posted on Twitter on January 5, 2016. Cicada tweeted a link to an image with the caption: “Liber Primus is the way. Its words are the map, their meaning is the road, and their numbers are the direction.” In April 2017 another PGP signed message was found: Beware of false paths. Always verify PGP signature from 7A35090F. That message explicitly denied the validity of any unsigned puzzle.

The reason for posting complex puzzles in a grand scale is never discovered. Some rumors suspected that this may be a recruitment process for NSA, CIA, MI6, or hacktivist group like Anonymous. But no one came to the front to get the credit. Some have claimed that Cicada 3301 is a cult or religion. The final outcome of this quest was again a mystery. Even some people claimed that they have solved the puzzle, there was no verification from the Cicada.

One conclusion we can come to about the formation of Cicada 3301 is, it’s widespread, and it has a large number of followers. But surprisingly there was no clue for the organization to trace back. So after 5 years from the first incident, we still don’t know what Cicada 3301 is, the purpose of the puzzles and who won the contest.

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Vidura Dantanarayana

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