Cicada 3301


Cicada Shell (Photo by Ellicia on Unsplash)

Have you ever heard of Cicada 3301? Cicada 3301 is an organization that has created 3 sets of puzzles for people to solve. The point of their puzzles is theorized to be to hire people onto an elite code-breaking team. However, it has yet to be stated what exactly Cicada 3301 does. Many believe that the puzzle was created by the CIA, MI6, FBI, NSA, or another intelligence agency.

3301 started their puzzles in 2012. I personally remember plainly being in fourth or fifth grade and watching these eerie videos on YouTube about urban legends and deep/dark web experiences. I eventually stumbled upon the Cicada puzzle at my grandmother’s house. I, of course, never got into the puzzles, but I watched daily updates to see what the endgame was. The very first image was a black background with white lettering posted on a message board site saying, “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 us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck. 3301.” An eerie message that would only provoke the most curious of minds. The message board community started working on breaking the code almost instantly.

The scavenger hunt did not last very long with such a tedious and difficult puzzle. However, this was not because every participant was discovered to be a secret genius. Instead, people had made message boards to share answers and help each other along the path (essentially, they were cheating). This continued until Cicada caught on and shut down the recruitment. Those who had already solved the puzzle were in, it was just that nobody else was allowed to complete it for hire.

Cicada 3301 has only been cracked by a few people who haven’t come out to say what the organization does. When the code was cracked, the organization posted on the message board saying that, “We have now found the individuals we sought. Thus our month-long journey ends. You are undoubtedly wondering what it is that we do we are much like a * think tank * in that our primary focus is on researching and developing techniques to aid the ideas we advocate liberty privacy security.” Could it be possible that the test was just used to hire people into the government to track dark and deep web activity? Or is it just a group of people trying to prevent an invasion of privacy? We may never know.