Cicada 3301 – The most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age

Cicada 3301 is a name given to an organization that on six occasions has posted a set of puzzles and alternate reality games to possibly recruit codebreakers/linguists from the public and listed as one of the “top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the internet” by The Washington PostCicada 3301, a kind of Internet scavenger hunt that relies on advanced code-breaking — and a working knowledge of things like obscure medieval literature and Mayan numerology — to unlock progressive clues. Who’s behind the puzzle is unclear, although many enthusiasts believe it’s a large, well-funded and shadowy organization trying to recruit into its membership.

  1. The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, and ran for approximately one month.
  2. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013.
  3. A third round following the confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014.
  4. No new puzzles were published on January 4, 2015. However, a new clue was posted on Twitter on January 5, 2016.
  5. In April 2017 another PGP signed message was found: Beware false paths. Always verify PGP signature from 7A35090F.

The Internet puzzle started as below:

First Internet Puzzle

The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, and ran for approximately one month. Users browsing 4chan’s /x/ board were greeted with a mysterious image, unlike much else really seen on that board.

Digital steganography Message as

One of the good resource tried to cover the progress of codebreaking at What_Happened_Part_1_(2012)

1. Website backup image after decoding telephone number and calling will give below message

Very good. You have done well. There are three prime numbers associated with the original final.jpg image. 3301 is one of them. You will have to find the other two. Multiply all three of these numbers together and add a .com to find the next step. Good luck. Goodbye.

2. Going to this website led to an image of a cicada and a countdown. Using OutGuess on the image produced the following message:


3. These returned locations across the globe, meaning that unless you had access to all these locations, you’d be forced to collaborate with other users, like the main IRC channel on n0v4. At each of these locations, brave solvers found a sheet of paper stuck to a telegraph pole, with a QR code and an image of a cicada.

4. It took a while for this to sink in with the community, that this wasn’t just a talented neckbeard in a basement, that this was actually a global organisation of some very very talented people who are hiring one of the best minds in the world.

5. The closing message from What_Happened_Part_2_(2012)

6. Media Coverage at The internet mystery that has the world baffled

7. Media Coverage at Is mystery internet challenge a recruiting tool for the CIA?

8. Media Coverage at Exploring the Darkest Corridors of the Internet

Second Internet Puzzle

4th of January 2013, when a second image was posted to /x/ and /b/ imageboards on 4chan. There were three threads where 3301 posted 232.jpg on 4chan, two times on /b/ 23 hours apart(1,2) and once on /x/.


Complete coverage of the Codebreaking progress can be found here : What_Happened_Part_1_(2013)

Third Internet Puzzle

6th Jan 2014 , third internet puzzle started by tweeted a link to an image on imgur.

  1. Complete coverage can be found here : What_Happened_Part_1_(2014)
  2. Media coverage can be found here : Cicada: Solving the Web’s Deepest Mystery
  3. Another media coverage can be found here : Cicada 3301: A puzzle for the brightest minds, posted by an unknown, mysterious organization


%d bloggers like this: