Are you up for solving a really challenging mystery? Cicada 3301 will intrigue you. Follow clues based on ancient Welsh manuscripts, mathematical theory, and obscure poems and other such matters, and you may be selected as a chosen one. Only those who solve the mystery know what the incentive is.
If you’ve ever looked at computer code, you know how convenient it could be to encrypt secret messages within strings of letters, shapes, and numbers. Terrorists have made good use of encryption. Osama bin Laden reportedly hid messages in images posted on the Web before Sept. 11, 2011,
USA Today said bin Laden and others were “hiding maps and photographs of terrorist targets and posting instructions for terrorist activities on sports chat rooms, pornographic bulletin boards and other Web sites.” Other terrorists succeeded with their attacks by doing the same.
Bin Laden ramped up his use of secret codes after the Clinton administration publicized the fact they were tapping his phone calls and monitoring his doings pre-9/11.
Secret codes and spying are nothing new to any regime; they date to ancient times.
The code breakers in World War II were an important part of Allied victory. Before that, secret messaging was part of the Tea Pot Dome scandal in the 1920s. That scandal produced another scandal of sorts—Americans learned the government had spied on members of Congress. Sound familiar? Walter Coffee said:
“One lasting legacy of the Teapot Dome scandal came when it was revealed that the Bureau of Investigation had illegally monitored and wiretapped the offices of congressmen investigating the scandal. This revelation prompted Bureau reform, leading to the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the appointment of J. Edgar Hoover as its first director.”
The Telegraph (London) touches on secret codes past and present in an interesting account of the Cicada 3301 Internet mystery. Apparently many have been caught up in attempts to solve it simply out of curiosity because no prize or incentive is promised. Here’s the message that hooked the subject of the Telegraph story one night—it was posted on an Internet message board:
“Hello…We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
Hopefully, the people who put down the bait are on the side of freedom rather than tyranny.
Technology, as always, even when it was crude, will determine the freedom scale of our future. At present, the outlook is pretty grim. No one knows what the “highly intelligent individuals” who solve the Cicada mystery go on to participate in.
The Telegraph said new clues in the next Cicada 3301 round are supposed to come out in January, 2014.
(Filed by Kay B. Day/Nov. 25, 2013)
Please see our followup article on Cicada 3301 (2014): Internet undertow sucks the curious into Cicada mystery