Solving Cicada 3301: Decoding the Internet's Greatest Mystery
The Why Files. Operation: PODCAST
Fri, August 18, 2023
Podchat Summary

The Mystery of Cicada 3301: A Puzzle for the Highly Intelligent

Join us as we delve into the enigmatic world of Cicada 3301, a secretive group that captivated the internet in January 2012. It all began with a cryptic message that appeared online, inviting only the most intelligent individuals to embark on a mind-bending puzzle-solving journey.

The first puzzle, posted on the notorious imageboard 4chan, led solvers to a hidden message cleverly encoded within an image. Using their wits and knowledge of cryptography, they deciphered the message using a Caesar cipher. But this was just the beginning.

As the puzzles progressed, solvers were introduced to the world of steganography, uncovering hidden pages on Reddit and employing book ciphers to decode a mysterious phone number. The challenges became increasingly complex, requiring not only cryptographic expertise but also computer skills and an understanding of various encryption techniques.

Cicada 3301's puzzles took solvers on a journey through the dark web and physical locations around the globe. Each step provided a sense of accomplishment and a rush of dopamine, making the puzzles addictive and undeniably enjoyable.

But what was Cicada 3301's ultimate goal? The group aimed to recruit highly technical individuals who could contribute to the development of open-source cryptography software, advancing the use of cryptography for privacy and security.

After several years of intense puzzle-solving and intrigue, Cicada 3301 suddenly went silent. No further contact or puzzles were released, leaving the identity and purpose of the group shrouded in mystery.

Join us as we explore the fascinating world of Cicada 3301, unraveling the puzzles, and attempting to uncover the truth behind this enigmatic group.

Original Show Notes

Early in the morning of January 4th 2012, a strange message appeared on the internet. Just a few lines of text on an image, posted anonymously.

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.


Many speculated that it was a recruiting tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, or even the Masons.

But who was really behind it, and what was its purpose? Did it even have a purpose?

Whether it did or not, it didn’t matter. Because when you post a puzzle on the internet looking for “highly intelligent people”, that’s a challenge that’s simply *impossible* to resist.

So, the hunt for Cicada 3301 was on.

--- Support this podcast:
Made with ☕️ in SF/SD.
© 2023 Spyglass Search, Inc.