Laughter is the Best Medicine

Cracking the Code of Cicada 3301 | EPISODE 3

(computer bonging) – [Computer] Hello everyone. – [Narrator] In January 2012,
a mysterious organization released an intricate
puzzle on the internet. Saying it was looking for
highly intelligent individuals. The group issued a new puzzle
the following two years, until its latest one couldn’t be solved. It remains a mystery to those who still are trying to
crack it, four years later. No one knows who’s behind the puzzle, or how the latest piece can be decoded. But who has made it into
the organization before? And why are they recruiting
some of the most intelligent people on the planet into Cicada 3301? – [Computer] The key has always been right in front of your eyes. Good luck, 3301. (crowd chattering) – I’m at Virginia Tech,
where one of the only people in the world who’s publicly
admitted to making his way inside Cicada goes to school. His name is Marcus Wanner. And he solved the 2012
puzzle as a 15-year-old. (laughing) Nobody else has hit the floor, yet. – [Marcus] That’s a half a point. – [Host] When you got
in, did you get any sense of 3301’s organization? – You can imagine we grilled them as soon as we had access to actually
ask Cicada questions; we had a million questions. What we gathered was, it’s an organization that’s hierarchical; it’s based on cells. When a new cell is
created, there’s one person who will manage the cell, and that will be their only point of contact
for the organization. We all had made up names,
that they had made up for us. – What was yours? – I was Liquid Vulture. – Cicada named you Liquid Vulture? – That’s what they called me. – Like you’ve got to be
wondering what are we here to do? What are we here for? Did they give you something to do, or? – They asked us to come
up with our own project. And they said it had to be something to do with digital liberties, in general. We came up with a bunch of
ideas, and then we selected one. We introduced ourselves. You’re afraid to talk about
anything you’ve worked on, since it could be connected with you. You’re afraid to talk about
your name, your family, you don’t say, oh, I just
finished eating dinner, because you give away your time zone. So it’s a big game, right? The game is, can you keep
your identity secret? I don’t know if Cicada knew
it, but they were teaching us to be able to do these things,
should we ever need to. The project we ended up working on, was intended to solve a
life and death problem for people who have a reason
to fear for their lives. I’m talking about whistle
blowers, academics working on disruptive technologies, maybe a book that somebody
wouldn’t want published. You could upload your book periodically to this dead man switch
that we would create. So the project was creating
a dead man switch system that doesn’t place any
trust in any one party. Instead, it’s going to go to
a bunch of different nodes, spread around the internet,
run by different people. You say here’s this thing,
release it in seven days if you don’t hear from me. And if you don’t check in for seven days, then a little bit of data gets released. We called it cakes. Cicada anonymous key escrow system. I was all gung ho about
it, the whole time. I totally wanted to do the project. And then I was the only one who actually wrote any code on it. I was designing my own crypto-systems. And I said, guys, I’m 15 years old. I don’t know how to do Crypto. If we’re gonna build
it, and build it wrong, then it’s worse than
if we didn’t build it. Because if somebody uses
it, and it gives them a false sense of security, then we’ve actually done something bad. I couldn’t get a review on my code, so I stopped working on it. Eventually Cicada shut the site down. – You essentially show
up for work one day, and work is gone? – So this was right around the time that the Snowden disclosures happened, so I don’t know if that
had anything to do with it. – Do you guys make the connection between the Snowden disclosures
and Cicada at that point? – The timing is suggestive. – So this is early 13, isn’t it? – Mmhmm, this was about a
few months before it broke, and they just went off the map. Maybe they’re still going;
maybe I just got kicked out. – [Host] No, but your friends would know. Guys that you went in
there, they would know. – I feel like, yeah,
they would know, right? – Every ARG in the world, it
seems like the core of it is, this is not a game. – If you release this tool,
and you save somebody’s life, or some documents get leaked
and it rewrites history a little bit, is it still a game? – If you’re working on
particularly strong cryptography, especially in North America,
you will get contacted by a government agency. Regardless what country you’re in, one of your intelligence
services will be monitoring what you’re working on, will come and talk to you specifically, or
even try to get involved. I don’t wanna say I am
a paranoid individual. I don’t think I am
particularly prone to flights of bizarre assumptions. Two or so weeks after we sent in the Freedom of Information Act request, someone parked a van
directly outside of my house. We went and looked at it the other day, and the back is full of
a bunch of stereo boxes. It sat there, unused, no one’s
even opened any of the doors, and it’s been there now,
almost a full month. – Oh, shit. – So I went to my neighbors,
and we were just like whose fucking van is this,
and they were all like, oh, it’s outside your place,
we all thought it was yours. No one has any idea whose it
is, or where it came from, and it’s been there almost a month. But I recorded 24 hours of that van. – You probably shouldn’t have. – Just pointed a camera at it, since we finished the call
last night and recorded it all. So this is the van. – Jesus Christ, it’s real. This is the world that we’re living in. This is why we need Cicada. – Dude, what the fuck is
wrong with your gutter, isn’t it supposed to be
attached to your house? – No. Every time there’s this
government intervention, you’re going okay, which
side are we getting. In some cases, that has been
good, and in a lot of cases, that’s considered not good. They aren’t sure with people
like us whether to be worried, or whether they wanna hire us. If anyone in the cryptography
community has the possibility of being a really useful
addition to their team, they need people like us. – I’m very familiar with the
way the government recruits. If I wanted to, I could
get tuition, books, and $65,000 in cash. Catch is, I have to work
for a government agency for three years. So I’m not doing it. – A long time ago I applied at the FBI. I thought it was local work, and not what the media was portraying. It’s not like they’re spying
on everybody all the time. In the Midwest, there’s
a lot of patriotism. There is that sense of
duty, to do your part. And even these big organizations,
military, FBI, NSA, Darpa, DOD, the only way you can change it is by getting in it and changing it. – [Host] The National
Security Agency’s specialty is signals intelligence. It monitors communications of
governments, and individuals, around the world. Much of its expertise is based on cryptography and codebreaking. Just the sort of work
the Cicada puzzle solvers have been doing for years. – Cryptographic puzzles
for us, are a part of our outreach strategy,
our branding strategy, our recruiting strategy. They’re generally created
by experts within NSA who are interested in that kind of stuff. We have lots of them. – [Host] The NSA has used
cryptographic puzzles in its public recruitment for years. But after Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the NSA’s surveillance
tactics, it’s finding recruiting top-level talent
far more difficult then before. – The increasing competition
that we’re facing as we doing our recruiting,
the sort of talents and skills that we go after
are more and more in demand by private industry also, so
we have to raise awareness of us as a distinctive
and unique employer. I had a student at a
college who had seen some of the Snowden materials that
had been unlawfully released. And he said I read about this system, and it just seemed unrealistic. And I said, no, that
slide was out of date. That system can actually
do far more nowadays, and if you came to work for
us, you could work on it. (techno music) We do amazing things here at NSA. We build incredible systems
to do our national security and foreign intelligence missions. And that’s ultimately the
hook you try to use to get a brilliant young electrical
engineer at a university to consider coming to work for you. There are things that you can
do legally, as a member of NSA in the conduct of foreign intelligence, that you can’t do legally anywhere else. For some kids, that is what they wanna do, and they wanna come here and do it. A group like Cicada,
I’ll give them credit. They’ve raised awareness of their views, and of the puzzles they’ve
created, and that’s cool. It’s even more cool to
try to break a real cipher used by a real intelligence target. And then know that it’s ending up on the Secretary of Defense’s desk. It’s fun to build a puzzle. It’s even more exciting to be
able to build a secure system, and know that a warfighter
is gonna be using it, and that it could save his life. From what I’ve read about
Cicada, if I was looking at it as a recruitment tool, boy they made this one
awfully complicated. It wasn’t NSA, if we had
issued a puzzle like that, we would stand up and say we had done it. Could one of our folks
conceivably have been doing it on their own time? I can’t rule that out. (computer keys clicking) – Hello, Shadow Walker.
– Hello. – [Onecool] Hey Brother Box. – That’s me. – Is anyone other than
me gonna share camera, or should I just kill this thing? – You should just kill the thing, because you look like a nerd. – I can’t help that I’m afraid. – Okay, I’m sending Craig the email. Yes, a meeting with Craig,
he’s able to show me a lot of cool stuff-techniques
that not everybody learns. He knows all the way back
to ancient Egyptian ciphers, and all the way up to
modern-day techniques. And he also has the experience
of working with the NSA, and then teaching college classes. – [Craig] I’m looking
at Nox right now, okay? – Hello, okay, so great. On the call right now
we have Shadow Walker, – Hello.
– Hi. – Brother Box from Germany. – Hello. (speaking foreign language) – Then we have Nox from Canada. – [Craig] How’s it goin’ eh? (laughing) – Hey man, was gonna say
we don’t have a good way to say hello in Canada, but that’s– – [Craig] Yeah, that’s the best I can do. So the first question I have,
did you do an analysis to see if the statistics match
a running key cipher for the alphabet that you have? – Yes, I can show you here, actually. – [Craig] Oh, cool. – Craig gave us the idea
for the running key cipher, that was really interesting,
because if you don’t know what to look for, you’ll never find it. So he knows right away, hey,
you should maybe try this, because this frequency
analysis says it might be that. – [Craig] What you’re
showing me makes me think that parts of it are running
key, but not everything. – Yes, so what we’ve actually
been doing is taking texts and converting them all into runic before we do our probability. – [Craig] That’s an awesome approach. – Yeah, just English into
Runic, this is the distribution. – Oh, dude.
– Wow. – Yeah, we feel they match. – [Craig] Awesome. – There are some of those spikes
you’ve been talking about, where E lines up with the E then– – [Craig] Yeah, yeah, if it was uniform, you’d have to hunt around
for a one-time pad somewhere, so that would be a totally
different kind of problem. – It would be an impossible problem. – [Craig] Well, I mean, Cicada might have stealthily posted one somewhere. – Yeah, well you know. – [Craig] Well, you’re
trying great things, so I would not at all be
surprised if this attack works. – Hey Craig, if I can
ask you this question, in your time at NSA, did
Cicada ever come up naturally? – [Craig] Oh geez, I don’t
remember specifically, but I’m sure that I asked about it. I mean there’s certainly highly
compartmentalized knowledge, so my saying that I didn’t
see any Cicada connection at NSA doesn’t really mean anything. – Right. – [Craig] Now you guys
are from around the world, any of you have involvement with your nations’ intelligence agencies? – [Nox] No. – Actually, we talked about this earlier, I was like if my country ever
needs someone who’s great at solving (muttering
inaudibly) related to insects, I’m your guy. – [Craig] Well, I tell you
what, if you end up having some success with this,
please let me know. It would be nice to see
that you guys succeeded. – Absolutely, yeah, we’re
feeling pretty good about it. – The thing is, nobody
has ever thought about at least in my knowledge,
about running keys, at least in terms that you can’t read. By the way, can we keep whatever
we record, and collect it? – [Shadow] Yes, I did. – You did, Shadow Walker? Whenever we have some meta,
we don’t throw them away. – [Shadow] Looks like he’s going on his whole digital
archivist thing again. (serene music) – Initially, it was just a
bunch of people with an interest in the same thing, but
gradually, because we’ve spent so much time working on
Cicada, this kind of small, professional thing we were
going for has turned into full-blown close friendships,
and that’s really awesome. My name is Shadow Walker, and
I live on the internet now. Cicada sends us a lot
of files and, to be able to use that material, we definitely need to have it organized. I’m the archivist. I’m very obsessive about organizing things, documents, important pieces of the puzzle. The name Shadow Walker I ripped off from a Star Wars fan fiction
I read when I was 15. Yeah, I was pretty big on that. If you look it up, the Shadow
Walker name is actually used to describe a person that
is not on the Light Side of the Force, or on the
Dark Side of the Force, they kind of walk in the middle. And that really appeals to
me, because I don’t have a very black and white view of morality. Sorry, I’m just kind of
thinking what I can say and what I can’t say. I’m probably going to end up
on some kind of watchlist. Now, you see, my thought
process right now is very funny; it’s, okay, so I’m in
this building right now, and you have the camera
pointing behind me, so government could definitely use that to narrow it down where we are right now. And I’ve been in this building, and there’s definitely
surveillance cameras in the lobby. It might sound overly paranoid, but it’s a very legitimate concern. (serene music) I’m not where I grew up,
and I miss being able to walk down the street,
and have the choice to think what I want, or have the
choice to do what I want. In certain countries in the
Middle East, you’re not allowed to look at websites the
government deems inappropriate. I feel like the flow of information in a society should always be free. People should not be
restricted from learning what they want to learn
simply because a government or another entity does
not think it’s right. So I try my best to teach
people how to use tools to protect their privacy,
and not just online. I try to teach them how to
do that in real life as well. Hey.
– Hey. – [Shadow] Hey you guys ready? – [Man] Yep. – [Shadow] Why should we be concerned about the NSA eavesdropping
on our conversations? Because they had a program
of mass surveillance that wasn’t just on Americans,
they collected the data of foreigners as well. I feel like people
should not be restricted from learning what they
want to learn simply because a government or another entity
does not think it’s right. – There are times where
her internet service, or certain websites, she can’t access because they’re filtering it. She’s definitely in the
most precarious place out of all of us. – She cares a lot about
the people around her, and she’s always been there
for anyone that needed it. She deserves a much nicer situation for how nice she is to
everyone around her. – I really hope that she
makes it out of this country, and I hope that she will
maybe one day get a taste of the freedom that she desires. – I found the solving community at a time where I was very alone. If I didn’t have these people in my life, I would probably would have
been alone for a lot longer than I would want to be alone. When I found these people it was like a whole new world of
friendship had opened for me. They mean a lot to me, because
we can relate to each other on a very intuitive level that
I don’t think is very common. So it’s been really, really
transformative for me to have these people in my life. To have this solving community in my life. I found a really supportive
community of friends, and I think I’m happy with that result. Even if we never solve the runes, I think I’m okay with
what I have right now. – Dude, I need to get off this
call, and start writing my, okay, you know what, I’m
going to get off my high horse here, and work on these stupid runes. I just stick around because
the community is pretty cool. There’s a joke right now. We say that Cicada is really
just about the friends you meet along the way, because
solving the puzzle seems like it’s not going to happen at this point. The only thing that’s
got me a little dicey, is the fact that I think the
tail of this R is clipped off, just a little bit. Or I guess, is it Rho, is
that Greek, or, fuck runes. (laughing) – So we’ve like, tried different methods that Craig Bauer showed
us, I thought that that could have been a lead. It wasn’t. I don’t know, what else do you think, Nox? – I am definitely all ears
for what else we do right now. – I don’t know anything else,
this is just mind-numbing. It is incredibly frustrating for us. Because it kind of means that all our ways to approach this are
probably fundamentally wrong. We are usually pretty good at this, but we couldn’t make much of a dent when it comes to Liber Primus. We have a few very serviceable intuitions, but we have no breakthrough. – Do you have a better suggestion? – I don’t know, I’m just bitching. I have no idea. – I don’t feel like we
were so not thorough that we’ve missed
something major, but like– – [Shadow] I think it’s good
to operate on the assumption that nothing these people do is random, because it never has been. – It kinda has been; it’s
just not that common. – [Shadow] By random, I just mean with like no purpose whatsoever. Solving the Liber Primus
is very frustrating. When you reach one part,
and you see it just hits a dead end, but you still
discover something new, but you can’t use that
information in any reasonable way. – There is a logical step
that we have not made. And I don’t know what
it’s going to take for me to get in the headspace of Cicada to try and make that logical step. But it needs to happen. – I feel like we’ve been pretty thorough. – Yeah, me too, me too bro. I don’t feel like I’m
in Cicada’s mindspace about the Liber Primus. I have no idea what their
intentions are, I cannot, like I’ve had points where
I’ve looked at something Cicada’s doing, and going,
oh yeah, this is exactly what the fuck is going on; I get what Cicada’s thinking with this. And with the Liber Primus,
I’ve never been there. – It doesn’t give away at
all, so we’ve been stuck, and it’s kind of demoralizing. But, trying to solve it. (slow jazz music) – It’s hot.
– Just keeps on goin’. – [Onecool] I got really frustrated; the whole community is
frustrated, so I don’t know, we haven’t given up. – [Marcus] This is the
largest coordinated effort that I think the community has ever done. – [Onecool] We have a lot of data now; we have a lot of tools; we
have a lot of knowledge. Right now, we need some sort of hint. They’re like beware false paths, the Liber Primus is the way. – [Marcus] Well that’s
like, we already knew that, that’s pretty obvious. And they’re not even hints,
they’re just like, taunts. Dude, Devcon is gonna be
cool, it’s gonna be great. – [Onecool] I’m really excited. – [Nox] I’ve known Marcus
close to six years, now, and I’ve never had the opportunity
to meet him in real life. To be honest, I was
actually really nervous. – So you’re saying that the
principal means of communication was called Cicada. – While I believe in coincidences, this one seems too much
to be a coincidence. – Did you take a look at the Cicada stuff? (laughing) – I’m not gonna like magically
solve it, by looking at it. – Magic is not as much fun, if you know how the
magician does his tricks. (computerized buzzing) (frantic fingerstyle guitar music)

100 thoughts on “Cracking the Code of Cicada 3301 | EPISODE 3

  1. "the key is always in front of you" … well yeah, they formed their own community sharing the same mindset, willing to achieve the same goal and being able to put alot of energy into solving something that's for us – normal people impossible to solve. What about we think about that Cicada was meant to do this all the time? To form this kind of community and maybe get the whole point of cicada somewhere? Why would cicada then ask those questions to them and select them as the Cicada solvers?

  2. 16:26 I'm sorry, these people are supposed to have been online privacy extremists, have tons of knowledge of encryption, surveillance and other technological niches like the deep web etc. and don't know how tp properly set up a VPN or connect to the Tor Network?

  3. “Middle east – undisclosed location” and then literally shows footage from emirates lmao and the girl spends a minute explaining her concerns about her security and how different departments could use the footage used in this video to track her down then the camera man spends two minutes showing footage of random places around the girl’s residence lmao what is this

  4. I have to believe that Shadow Walker segment is some sort of deliberately planted misinformation. They're too smart to think the steps taken were adequate, especially in a video of interest to people who like to solve puzzles. At an absolute minimum, I'm confident that anyone who has ever met that girl would immediately recognize her in the video by her voice and mannerisms. Girls like that aren't a dime a dozen. So they're counting on anyone she knows simply never clicking this video.

  5. Shadow Walker could easily assimilate and get a job in the west. I wonder what has tethered her to the middle east.

  6. Honestly Cicada 3301 sounds like Philanthropy trying to take on the Patriots AI information control machine in MGS2.

  7. what if craig who has had past relations with the NSA is present there as an overseer to monitor the progress they’re making and report it back? i know it’s quite stupid but idk

  8. Cicada Solving: It was always in front of your eyes
    You can go fast by yourself
    But you can only go far together.

  9. What if the person who created Cicada works for Great Big Story and they are trying to see how far the people have gotten

  10. I was going back to pornhub after the 1st episode. but, here I am ..going down the rabbit hole instead of my fist hole & I'm still not mad. 🤨

  11. To get into the mindset of the ones who are portraying the codex, you would have to take the stance of where it is trying to force you all in lead to his belief system which then leads to their/his/her/it's psychology. Thinking outside the box I really do think the study of cults and "religion" (history and present) will be the undoing of the codex for its how all cults use for initiation for a "pyramidal", revealing more secrets toward their scheme when when accomplishing and achieving different stages of their "game". Try matching up gematria and kabbalah with ancient aramaic/hebrew for that is where all cults lead by means of indoctrination and zionism by not having truth but teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, beware though of the one who controls them.

  12. can someone give me a short summary of what happened?
    so who was 3301? it was government? or underground hacking group?
    are they good guys? bad guys?
    and did anyone solve the puzzle yet? and what happened to them?

  13. on episode 1, in the comment section, someone said imagine if after all this work they finally crack the final code and it leads to a link to Rick Astley – never gonna give you up

  14. Sending hope and goodwill to Shadow Walker.
    Her story is one of the best takeaways from this!

  15. thanks for pumping out the special guys, keep them coming!

    NSA responded how the NSA would respond, but its cool to see the guy genuinely intersted

  16. Shadow Walker having to be so careful about releasing any personal information due to where she lives is WHY Cicada needs to exist! I guarantee you she lives in Iran, though. Her perfect English, access to a still somewhat stable Internet, the way she talks, etc.

  17. The girl. Shadow walker, if wanted. You could easily, track, and find. putting the pieces together, blue hair, glasses, thin glasses about 5’6, Asian background, Macbook, IPhone 6s *gold*, Dubai. these are parts of a puzzle, her puzzle, her puzzle to her own identity, and the identity of who she is trying to hide. Hiding your identity is easier than shown in a modern day silence, silence, is the problem of hiding your identity.

  18. Truly nobody wants to be a part of your shitty spy organization, NSA. All you do is spy on your own citizens. Lol

  19. everyone talking about the girl's privacy and all,, just think for a second, she has solved the cicada puzzles and if she wanted to remain anonymous no one would be able to know who she is! Of course the girl in the video is an actress!!

  20. Liber Primus cant be decrypted in the real world, it is a dream runes. the one who makes 2012 cicada and the liber primus is different "person" or at least its different kind of aproach. The Goal of liber primus is to broaden the community, its like giving a programmer a canvas to work on a painting. either you learn how to paint or asked some painter to do it

  21. I think they would definitely benefit from a new brain with new ideas on their team. Don't get me wrong, they seem like really smart and dedicated individuals. However, when you're doing something for so long you can get blinded by "rules" that even though they don't "exist" they set themselves in our minds.

  22. Just my thinking but: everyone working solving is so enticed by being a part of something like this it seems. They are jumping into an unknown "trying to solve it". Your life isn't good enough without risky behavior so you want to be contacted by someone you dont even know for who knows what. That's stupid. Ya let's meet someone behind a dumpster who we don't know for unknown reasons, how smart is that. Not that smart.

  23. They should share what they know so far/what theyve tried so far, their process with the world. it would help people give fresh eyes to it

  24. NSA recruited members to get curious minds to try solve an unsolvable problem.
    Revealing these individuals for recruiting … solved.

  25. Is it only me but somewhere in the nsa part here in the vid theres like a beeping sound in the background maybe just my audio….. I REALLY WISH I KNOW EVEN 1 PERCENT HOW TO DO WHAT THEY ARE DOING

  26. Work for the NSA. Betray your family, friends, democracy and class imposing a system of social control operating under the guise of terrorism prevention. Fabulous prizes to be won!

  27. I don't know anything about cryptography or code breaking, but one thing comes to mind: So far their successful cracks have all revealed small snippets of information, such as a web link or text statement. What could 3301 possibly want to convey in 58 pages ? – A manifesto ? Another simple clue seems far more likely than pages and pages of encrypted text. I would try to find ways of combining the pages into a format that can reveal a much more concise statement. Perhaps the pages are supposed to form an image when superimposed in just the right way, or they convert to map features. Something that takes a lot of detail to form a simple result, such as an image or sound pattern or a software routine. I would search for ways to combine many pages into something much simpler.

  28. I’m just happy there are nerds out there making all this effort and I can semi keep up with the development of cicada while still being able to live a normal life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *