Is The Internet's Most Baffling Mystery About To Be Solved?

Cicada 3301 is a mysterious organization posting highly complex puzzles across the net. After two years, the answer may finally be in sight.

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Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, saw the message.

He knew it was an example of digital steganography: a way of hiding an encoded message in an image. A sender might, for example, start with an innocuous image file and adjust the color of every 100th pixel to correspond to a letter in the alphabet.

Eriksson tried decoding 3301's message. After only a few minutes work he'd got somewhere: a reference to "Tiberius Claudius Caesar" and a line of meaningless letters.

It led to this picture. He ran it through a decryption programme, and found another link to a Reddit messageboard. There were encrypted links to books on it, along with lines and dots.

The clues got more and more complex, with increasingly sophisticated encryption techniques required. More and more 4chan users joined the hunt. And this logo began to appear more and more.

Via en.wikipedia.org

Cicadas only appear every prime number of years to avoid their predators. The puzzles began to include prime numbers.

So who are they? There have been a number of different theories:

This anonymous posting on Pastebin, allegedly from a British military officer, says it's a group of "military officers, diplomats, and academics who were dissatisfied with the direction of the world". However, it's likely a fake.

It could, of course, be a recruitment drive, like the one launched by British intelligence services last year. It could also be a private company looking for cryptologists: a useful skill in the world of online shopping in particular.

People who solved all puzzles in 2012 leaked some (too much?) information on what happened next. "Winners" got an invitation to a secret group made up of everyone who had succeeded that far. In that group they were advised by "3301 mentors" with the ultimate goal of creating a security application. Some believe it to be a final test, others say they had already been given entry, but the consensus is 3301 did not reveal themself not any of the mentors. Rumor has it that group was disbanded due to inactivity and lack of motivation.

Right on schedule, the puzzles reappeared on January 5th this year, on this little-followed Twitter account.

1231507051321

@1231507051321

http://t.co/R3NiehRoBs

/ Via

The work of a private man/ who wished to transcend,/ He trusted himself, / to produce from within.
Specifically, it features a collage of his works Nebuchadnezzer, The Ancient Of Days and Newton – with a faint marking of a cicada tucked into the bottom of the picture.But the images are arranged in such a way that some solvers are now debating whether the image is supposed to represent a Thelema star (a hexagram developed by Aleister Crowley) or an image of a Masonic Square.

If you want to monitor the progress of Cicada 3301's solvers check this wiki.

Will this be the year we finally discover the truth behind the mystery?

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