CCicada 3301 is one of the colossal riddle ever found on the internet. It’s a 3 part puzzle that was uploaded on the internet in January 2012. Henceforth denouncing it as the biggest mysteries around the globe.
On 4th January 2012, a user on 4chan posted an image to the site’s infamous or random board. The anonymous author who went by the four-digit pseudonym 3301, challenged users to uncover a message hidden within the image. So in this way, someone just started one of the most elaborate scavengers hunts the internet has ever seen.
Within minutes of the image being posted someone discovered that by opening the file using a text editor a string of readable text could be found. The string contained a cypher that, once deciphered, formed a link to yet another image. At first, this appeared to be a dead-end but using an application known as OutGuess, users were able to extract the hidden information in the image. That information leads to a subreddit which turned out to contain information about a book. The book along with a code then used to reveal a phone number that, when called, played a recorded message that said, “Very good. You have done well. There are 3 prime numbers associated with the original final.jpg image 3301 is one of them you will have to find the other two, multiply all the three numbers together and add a .com on the end to find the next step. Good luck goodbye.”
After solving this puzzle by the group of armchair detectives and other individuals they were headed to a website where it consisted of a countdown as well as an image of a cicada. When the countdown ended, it revealed a list of coordinates of 14 different places around the globe. At this point, many theories were given regarding the mystery like it was the work of a secret society or an intelligence agency with the intent of recruiting individuals proficient in cryptography, steganography, and other related fields.
At each location in which the coordinates were based on, there was a poster with the cicada symbol and a QR code. These codes linked to an image, the image contained a riddle that leads to a book, and the book leads to a website. The PGP signature was used to confirm that the images and messages were from the original cicada 3301.
On this website, only the first few arrivals were selected and the rest got a message on the website that read,” we want the best, not the followers.” And those who were selected were asked not to collaborate or to share the detail of the private stage of the puzzle.
After a month, an image appeared on the subreddit announcing the conclusion of the puzzle and by this, the hunt was over. According to the announcement, cicada had found the highly intelligent individuals, they were looking for. Many questions were rattling everyone’s mind like, What was the puzzle for? who was behind it? , what happens at the end? what happened to those highly intelligent individuals? and many more. After some time it turned out that this was just the beginning.
On 5th January 2013, another image was uploaded which stated that the search for intelligent individuals continues. On repeating the same process of decoding the image that leads to a book and then decoding the book it leads to a link and clicking the link a file was downloaded which contained a music file named “The Instar Emergence”. After decoding the musical notes with a detailed analysis it leads to the formation of an image when it was decoded using OutGuess, a hidden message was uncovered where space was given instead of a hint. The “puzzle-solvers” even solved that by using the space and tab key binary digits that were used to give the space in the message and after solving those digits to a readable format, a link was uncovered that lead to dark web where again the coordinates of 8 different locations were given in the website and every location a cicada poster was found along with the final dark web link as before. Only some first arrivals were selected and then it vanished again. However, this was still not the end.
After a year, on 6th January 2014, once again cicada launched another puzzle. When the image was Outguessed and it led to a poem that led to a book and after decoding the codes in the book that led to a link. As we go on solving the puzzles with some more of the links the puzzle seemed to revolve around a strange book titled “Liber Primus”, meaning the first book in Latin and was evidently written by cicada. The book was primarily written in runes. Even so, the meaning of the translated pages were cryptic at best. There were 74 pages in total out of which 58 pages or most of the pages are still unsolved. As it is very difficult to translate runes.
Many participants believed that to progress they need to solve Liber Primus, which was later confirmed by cicada in the year 2016 with a message that stated liber Primus is the only way to progress. Many IRC channels around the world who were solving the puzzle gave up after a long period of time.
The selected members were hard to find even after that a man named Marcus Wanner has revealed that he was one of the few selected members. And a series of leaked private emails surfaced that revealed the ideology of cicada along with the warnings not to share anything. However, not many pieces of information were revealed. In an interview Marcus revealed that there were very few members were selected who were asked to join a forum on the dark web to work on security software and he also revealed that he was in contact with one of the members of Cicada who never gave any answers to the private questions he asked, he only used to share the ideologies of cicada about the promotion of the internet security and cryptography. He also revealed that that the few selected members lost interest and the group was minimized to 2-3 members than all of a sudden one day the site was gone and they never heard from Cicada again.