Cicada 3301 has been called “the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age” and one of the “top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the Internet”. Two months ago, Swedish YouTuber LEMMiNO published this definitive documentary about it and it’s since gotten around 4 million views and counting.
Cicada 3301 refers to a mysterious organization that posted a set of PGP-encrypted puzzles to the “Random” bulletin board at 4chan.org in January of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016, with the stated purpose of recruiting “highly intelligent individuals.”
The clues have included many different communication media, including the Internet, telephone, original music, Linux CDs, digital images, physical paper signs, using references to classic literature and art, philosophy, cryptography and math. The clues unlocked geographical coordinates for a scavenger hunt. We’re shown the cellphone video from the player in Seoul, South Korea of the bike shelter where a paper sign with a QR code containing the next clue was found.
Corporations and governments have employed similar recruitment techniques since at least the Second World War and Britain’s GCHQ, Google and the US Navy have drawn inspiration from Cicada 3301 to launch their own recruitment projects in recent years.
Whether an elaborate trolling or an invitation to a cyptic cult, the purpose of Cicada 3301 remains a mystery. Can YOU figure it out?