Cicada 3301

cicadaI love me a good conspiracy theory. Some I actually believe and some I just want to believe—I guess one might just say I have a subversive side. And today, I read this article from The Telegraph: “The internet mystery that has the world baffled.”

The article introduced me to a series of internet puzzles, or tests, that have come to be known as “Cicada 3301” and they’re puzzles that basically only skilled cryptographers and hackers can decode. In 2012 some people found these secret puzzles or messages in “underground forums” that began with

“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.”

I’m not going to go into all the details of the article—which you should definitely read—but basically the puzzle gets harder and harder, the clues being buried deeper and deeper in the interwebs, and there are even physical clues that show up around the world that lead to real phone numbers. The creepy part is that suddenly, the trail goes cold with a message that simply reads, “We want the best, not the followers.” It’s believed that the few that made it to that website first were able to enter their email addresses and are now solve puzzles on their own, privately.

Then, at the beginning of this year, a message surfaced

“Hello again. Our search for intelligent individuals now continues.”

Some thought it might just be a PR ploy for a game company or some product to sell, but the fact that no one has taken responsibility yet pretty much disproves that. Of course others think it’s the CIA or NSA recruiting assets, but again, no one is taking responsibility.

On the one hand it’s easy to say whatever, people are solving puzzles online, who cares? On the other hand, it’s fascinating to me to think of the difficulty and elaborate nature of this thing, and that this could be a recruitment mechanism for some organization, and if so, why? What are they doing? Whoever it is, whatever it is, it’s likely something that should freak us all out, right? OR, just maybe, this whole “Cicada 3301” thing is an elaborate ploy to distract us from some other nefarious activity. It’s a crazy world and I know there are some dark corners.