Laughter is the Best Medicine

Cracking the Code of Cicada 3301 | EPISODE 4

(suspenseful electronica music) – [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. Where might the solvers find the answers they’re looking for? And is there a way to truly find out who’s behind CICADA 3301? – [Electronic Voice] The key has always been right
in front of your eyes. Good luck 3301. (lively upbeat music) – [GPS] Continue for one mile. – We’re in Vegas. – Are we meeting up with Nox tonight? – Yeah, that would be awesome. – I’ve known Marcus probably
close to six years now and I’ve never had the opportunity
to meet him in real life. – Self parking, yeah. – And to be honest, I was
actually really nervous. It’s one thing when you talk to each other all the time online, but you never know how you’re gonna interact
with someone in real life once you actually kind of get there. – Hi. – Hey. So, after years for some of us
working on the Liber Primus, we decided this time to go to DEF CON. It’s the biggest hacker
conference in the world. Cryptography, internet security, all that sort of thing happens there. We had really high hopes if
we were gonna meet someone who could help us solve it, it was gonna be at a place like this. – Wow, what did you do? – I made it awesome. – [Narrator] If anyone was
going to know crypto-puzzles, you would think it’s
Crypto Village at DEF CON where they do their
badge puzzle every year. These are the kinds of
people to actually help us. This is where we’re gonna find them. – Oh, I’m gonna pull the FCC idea for this and find out what kind
of radio chip it is. – Oh, we need to set
your username, hold on. – Wait, what should we call it? – Piano Baby – It’s got a WiFi and a Bluetooth module, I can’t identify the
antennae but it’s right here. – So, the keys were actually designed by someone here named Whitney but if like this is the kind
of stuff she’s designing, I think she might be kind
of interested in CICADA. I bet she’d have some things to say on it. – I think she would be fun to talk to. – Yeah, absolutely. Excuse me, are you Whitney? – Hi.
– I’m Marcus – Marcus, nice to meet you. Hi, I’m Whitney. – I’m Winkle – Whitney, nice to meet you. I see you got one of our badges. – I did. I really love the key designs. – Oh thank you, thank
you, thank you so much. – Did you take a look at the CICADA stuff? – So, I’ve seen a little bit but I don’t know what the
text they’re referring to is. That’s where you guys are stuck, right? – Yeah, I have a copy of it. It’s 58 pages of– – Encrypted ruins. – So, I was way worse at puzzles until I started designing them cause then you start to
think differently about it. And then you also learn that like it’s much harder to design
a puzzle that’s solvable in a certain period of time. Like, I’ve screwed people over. (laughing) Our last puzzle was two years ago, and it took people three weeks
after DEF CON to finish it. And it was intended to
be done in three days. Yeah, way easier. – Do you have anybody around
here that maybe might– – Any Crypto village people who might be into this sort of stuff? – Yeah, so Maya, who I think is at the she helped me design the puzzle. She puzzles all the time. – You think it’s unsolvable? – No, I actually think it is solvable. – How do you know it hasn’t been solved? – I mean, we feel like somebody
would’ve said something, but also the Cicada
Group, so they have a PGPG that they sign all their puzzles with. – They’ve only said probably two things in the last two years and both times it was just,
hey, keep working on that. – If you were gonna make a
puzzle and never reveal yourself and you wanted to just be famous forever, you wouldn’t make a solvable puzzle. Maybe there’s just no solution to it and it’s just there to
keep people interested. – I don’t know, so there’s a puzzle fix. Too short, right? It’s like something like
a 150-ish characters that has not been solved
for like 200 years, right? And it’s supposedly,
it’s the doorbell cipher and 200 years later, it’s still unsolved. – We threw the book at it honestly. We don’t know what to do now. – So now we’re at DEF
CON asking random people. (all laughing) – Why do you think it’s only
the max size of the page? Are the pages always independent? (mumbling) I’m not gonna magically
solve it by looking at it No, it’ll help. – [Narrator] So we were really excited to show her the Liber
Primus and really quickly, we kind of came against one
of the biggest challenges with the Liber Primus is, there’s so much background
information that you need before you before you could
even start talking about it. – Okay, so this is the ruins– – This is the alphabet. – So this is really built
around English specifically. – Yeah, very much so. And also what we’ve been looking at is really old Friedman papers about the data. When E’s match up with
E’s, that sort of thing, which is pretty consistent
with what we’re looking at. – It’s a stream cipher. – You take someone this talented this much crypto-knowledge and show
them something like that and its just like. I don’t wanna say stonewalled but it’s a little bit what it is. We tried a lot of stuff actually too much stuff to
usually remember in a day. Like we have to go through
our notes and be like, oh yeah we tried that for like two weeks. – And all of the other things you’ve tried for the past five years. – It’s a little obsessive. – Just a little. – It kind of started to dawn on us, I guess we weren’t gonna get
so lucky as finding someone standing around at a conference who would really help
us with a breakthrough. (dramatic music) – [Narrator] Solving the Cicada puzzle requires public access
to strong encryption and the free-flow of information. These ideas flourished in the
early days of the internet at the University of California, Berkeley. That’s where I’m meeting Bill Marczak one of the leading figures
in the contemporary debate over digital rights. – So tell me about this place and what is its place in
the history of this debate? – Well right now we’re
standing in Soda Hall. This is the Computer Science
department here at UC Berkeley. And UC Berkeley was one
of the intellectual hubs of the resistance in
the first crypto wars. (dramatic music) – [Narrator] In the early
90s, the internet was a new and little understood thing but even then, scientists
could see the potential threats to privacy the governments posed. – Whenever you send and
receive electronic mail, it can be opened without your knowledge. They can look over your shoulder and see what web pages you’re visiting and what pictures you’re looking at, what political ideas
you’re being exposed to. – [Narrator] A group of
hackers began to organize, to fight for internet
privacy and digital rights. – They were graduate students, professors, staff, they call
themselves the Cypherpunks. And their desire was to create systems and platforms for encryption
and anonymous communication and make these really available. – We’re investigating Cicada. And some of the people we’ve talked to think that it could have
a link to the Cypherpunks. – Well back in the old
days, the early 90s, the way that you communicated
especially online, was you had something
called a mailing list. And anybody who sent
an email to this Alias, the message would be immediately forwarded to all of the subscribers of the list. – Who would all have
been on this mail list? – So it initially started
off with students, professors, researchers at UC Berkeley, and gradually expanded to some
people that we know today. For example Julian Assange from Wikileaks, the creator of Tor, Roger Dingledine, and others who were very instrumental in creating a lot of the tools that we use everyday to be
anonymous or to encrypt our data. The mailing list was an email
address – So you’re saying that the
principle means of communication between the most influential resisters of government interference in encryption and in privacy issues, was called Cicada? – There was a server
right here in Soda Hall, that was called While I believe in coincidences, this one seems too much to
be a coincidence, right? You’ve got this term, Cicada
used in the Cypherpunk context and then used by this group 3301, which is espousing very
much the same ideals. (calm music) – I was really glad we
got to go to DEF CON. It was a lot of fun to be
able to hang out with Nox and OneCool and I had
no idea what to expect. We worked on the Liber
Primus a little bit. We basically ran around DEF CON asking everybody we could find what they thought of this puzzle. And at first, I thought it was weird to just like run around asking
people for help with puzzles, but then people started asking us for help with their puzzles. I’m like, okay, we can
all be happy with this. Being able to walk around
and physically talk to people and see if I could get
somebody to admit to something. I didn’t honestly believe that we were going to
solve the Liber Primus. People have been working on it for years. A lot are really brilliant people with a lot of different ideas and a few people have gotten
a few pages, but nothing. It’s like the Rosetta Stone
to solving the Liber Primus. (calm music) – There aren’t a lot
of security cameras on the corners of buildings around here. – There’s that one which is unusual but– – That is weird. What do you think that’s planting down on all of the band systems? – It’s likely, yeah. Yeah there’s nothing
you can see from there besides all the countless– – Its gotta be the vent or
it’s long distance to the pool but that’s a little weird. – Nah, they wouldn’t do that. – I haven’t ever worked
on a single problem as long as I have worked on this. People might say we’re crazy but I’m just gonna work
on it, I don’t care. Once you have a problem that spans years, it’s more about perseverance
and sticking with it, than walking away. – It’s not bringing back
any memories for you? – [Peter] While the puzzles
might have been interesting, that wasn’t a particular thing that I would’ve focused on back then. (piano music) – [Narrator] The Cypherpunks
from the Berkeley main list, may have at least inspired Cicada. I’m trying to track down some
original members of the group in the hopes that they
might provide some insights. – [Peter] I was looking
at PGP and its infancy. – That is the exact
thing that’s killing us. Pete, is there any way in the world to figure out who that is behind a PGP? – [Peter] Not if they’re careful, I mean it’s sort of the same
thing as trying to figure out who owns a particular Bitcoin. – Anybody who has the kind of expertise to build this kind of thing
and might be part of Cicada. Probably, if they were
around at that time, Cypherpunks probably would
be a place they would be. The Cypherpunks manifesto, Cypherpunks will make the
internet safe for privacy. And clearly, that’s a design goal or the philosophy that they’re espousing is the individual liberty and the ability to protect one’s self. – So I guess the big question is if this really was a Cypherpunk, do you think we’d have
any chance of finding him? – Well if it really is a Cypherpunk, you’re probably not gonna find him. – Why? – Cypherpunks know how
to protect themselves. – Thanks for your time, man. – Been my pleasure.
– Buh-bye. – To solve the Liber
Primus we’ve tried a lot. (laughing) – It was my first year at DEF CON, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t necessarily expecting anybody to help us solve it like that. It was more, kind of
meeting like-minded people that really enjoy solving puzzles. – So, what should we do, go in the room? – I mean, yeah. – RoomCon? – I haven’t given up because I feel like if I give up and everybody else is
giving up, then it’s over. (door unlocking) – I might take breaks and who
knows how long that would be. After this much, it’s now, what is it, the sunk cost fallacy? That puts so much into it now that there’s no way I can
just give up on it, right? – We had a somewhat unsuccessful day looking for some outside help. – Hmm, there’s something
with my desktop manager. – What are you doing? Operation math? – I told you man, you had Wifi on when you started it up in DEF CON. And then you put the disk in it. Like you’re just asking
for– you got wrecked. – We’re a little bit down, we’re kind of questioning whether this was necessarily
the right decision and OneCool got hacked as if we kinda needed one
more thing out of that day. – We haven’t been here for like a day and you got owned by the
conference organizers. – That’s amazing though, I’m so thrilled. I was hoping one of us
would while we were here. (calm piano music) – We think criss-crossing the world from Las Vegas to London, to Berlin, to San Francisco, in our pursuit to the
mystery that is Cicada 3301. We’ve hired one of the world’s
top digital forensics firms to see if Cicada’s left behind anything like a digital fingerprint. Any trace that can reveal their identities or anything about them. Anything at all. – We have great reach into
the open deep and dark web so we’ve pulled everything
that we could find about Cicada from those sources. We then coupled out with human expertise to look through the
puzzles that were set up and look at the infrastructure behind them and maybe who’d set them up or any other identifying
information like that. What you’re seeing here is
really the volume of discussion that we’ve seen over time
about the Cicada Group. Cicada is a thing
discussed in the criminal and hacker forums, as much as
it is in the open internet. – It’s just incredible to me,
in this year of this century, you can still do something this big, get this much attention and
yet somehow stay secret? – I agree, I think that’s one of the most extraordinary
things about this. If you look at the cyber criminal groups, you’ve got things like Silk Road and most recently the Hanser Marketplace have been taken down. And those guys have millions riding on it and we’re incredibly
careful with their security. Cicada has been incredibly careful with their OPSEC, their
operational security. They haven’t given away any clues and it’s very unusual if that’s the case. When you look at these
other cyber criminals being apprehended by authorities, often they’ve left something
out there, some clue. Could be a username,
could be an email address, could be the one time
they didn’t use a VPN to obscure their IP address
when they connected. – You have to give them some credit, I mean it’s just when you
live in the concrete world, you want there to be a
concrete explanation. And so I’m ultimately frustrated and alternately in love with these guys because they can do this. I went into it thinking that everybody said it was unsolvable. And you wanna believe that you can always
solve whatever’s there. Do you actually think
that this will ever be publicly solved? – I think that’s down
to the people behind it and the motivations here. I wouldn’t hold your breath. (calm piano music) – It was our last night in Vegas. We’re in this parking lot, we’re just hearing this weird noise. – You can see the
realization dawn on Marcus and he goes, guys that’s a Cicada. – We found a Cicada. How fucking ridiculous is that? – Oh, I see it. Yeah, right up there. – To just be standing there, kinda at dusk, with these
friends I’ve made through this. He’s seeing this for the
first time, it was crazy. – I didn’t think I’d hear
Cicadas in Las Vegas. – I mean, I’m from
Canada, we don’t have any. I’ve never heard one in real life. – Mind-blown. – People do tend to say in Cicada there’s really no
such thing as a coincidence. – 2:33:01, my name is Bryan Burrough and I’m reaching out to you today as part of a multi-part
documentary series. I’m writing in hopes that you may allow us to open a line of communications through which we might seek your guidance on some of our conclusions. We would enjoy a chance to
share some of these observations with you as well, in hopes that you might shed some light on the durability of your
handiwork and the ideas behind it. It is a marvel. Thank you for your consideration, Bryan Burrough. – The single greatest
value that Cicada has had, has just been one of education. They were teaching us to
be able to do these things should we ever need to. Its not gonna suddenly turn into a world where you just can’t build
privacy software anymore. But if it does, we’ve got it covered. That’s the idea. – I want it to end but I wanna solve it. I think it’s possible. I almost feel like it’s way easier than we’ve made it out to be. So I’m gonna be embarrassed
when somebody else solves it and they’re like oh, it’s one,
two, three, four you know? – When I first joined Cicada, I was driven by the urge
to find out who they are. By now, I think that it is actually best if we never found out who they are. Magic is not as much fun if you know how the
magician does his tricks. You sometimes think, what
if there is no solution? What if this was intended
to be unsolvable? Then you can either be very frustrated because you wasted a lot of time or you can figure out
what you have learned. And sometimes I think Cicada is about the friends
you make along the way. Fuck, I did the meme line, holy shit. We’ve all kind of made each other better. Cicada puzzles have
kind of built this group of people like each other. And you kinda have to wonder if that was part of the
point the whole time? – I always enjoyed the
theory that we made it so we would have real friends. (everybody laughing) – If I had the chance to
directly speak to 3301, I would tell them thank you for
introducing me to the people that have been in my life
for the past four years. Also, you don’t wanna see
your work go to waste. You should give us a hint so that we can solve your Liber Primus because you wrote a whole book for us and you don’t want us to read it? That’s awful, don’t be assholes. Give us a hint. (dramatic music)

100 thoughts on “Cracking the Code of Cicada 3301 | EPISODE 4

  1. So to not let you waste 21 minutes and 21 seconds. They’re never going to do it we’re never going to find out. Even though a whole bunch of people want to know. The end

  2. Me: is trash and coding and now very little about encryptions but likes them
    Great Big Story: boy, do I have the show for you!

  3. Plot twist: 3301 is the group behind Satoshi Nakamoto and bitcoin. Whoever solves the libra primus will be gifted the private keys containing 1 billion dollars of btc.

  4. What if these people created Cicada 3301 in the past but their memories have been erased every time they get to the end of the puzzle?

  5. I may be wrong here but from what I recall. 3301 had made it a point that solving the puzzle with a team or outside help would not be considered a true solve. In other words if you cannot figure this out on your own and need help. You are not the person we are looking for. The best of luck to everyone still trying to figure this stuff out, but I'm fairly certain if you do you still will not be hearing anything back upon solving.

  6. Cicadas are like nature's equivalent to that one guy you work with sitting right next to you on your lunch break and bitches the whole time about work.

  7. I guess I’ve just accepted that everything I do is being monitored and sold to company’s so they can show me their adds. I just try to forget about it but it’s painfully obvious that every phone and Alexa and computer is just a direct stream of data to whatever government or corporation wants it. I really have no choice to accept my lack or privacy.

  8. 3 things that have become apparent to me.

    The primus should be solvable (at least the darknet site revealed, if not solvable to completion) within 1 to 4 weekends worth of time with the right mindset. or
    The primus was a much more poorly built recruiting tool than the cicada puzzles that came before it, and as a result, cicada as a group has failed. or
    The purpose and vision of cicada has shifted completely from what is was.

    If it was meant to be a recruiting tool, a stepping stone to achieve membership into some collective of crypto-forward thinkers/coders, then the solution shouldn't be THAT difficult to find. People must have taken it too far and the solution(s) to the various sections are likely simpler than it seems. You don't want to recruit people who spend years working on a puzzle and doing essentially nothing else but work on that puzzle. The minds you want in your collective are going to have moved on because those minds would be capable of seeing how not worth their time it is to keep working on it past that point. Those people could be, and would be, finding other ways to contribute to society, to move crypto forward, etc. It can't take long enough to solve such that it pushes away the very people they're trying to recruit.

    But if it truely is so multi-faceted and convoluted and difficult to solve, and if it should actually take years, and maybe decades to solve, then cicada has failed in creating a good recruitment tool. The Inception scene comes to mind where Cobb asks Ariadne to draw a maze that takes 1 minute to solve. Having a stepping stone in the process of recruitment take so long on purpose would be more a failure of cicada than of the solvers. We see this in game development sometimes, where game devs don't want people figuring something out and either deliberately or accidentally, create a puzzle that isn't realistically solvable in the intended amount of time.

    However, it's possible the vision, the purpose, of cicada has shifted. Instead of recruitment into a mysterious collective, it's possible, however unlikely, that the purpose has shifted towards creating something not necessarily unsolvable, but a monument for people to look at for a long long time. Maybe they've already accomplished what they wanted to with prior recruitment, and this is no longer meant to recruit more, but just to have people stare at in confusion or awe.

    Personally, I prescribe more to the first. That the answer(s) are simpler than they seem, like how the 2 missing primes in the first puzzle was simply height and width of the image. Either way, I'm not going to pursue it — I'm not looking to be recruited in that manner, regardless of how likely it would be that I would fail ….. …. or succeed.

  9. 2101 is the number to the house in which the duck mailbox at 20:39 is depicted. maybe some plant analysis can point to a region or other clues. I think this series is a clue in and of itself.

  10. this was amazing. i heard about cicada many years ago and i cant believe its still going on now. there are truly great people out there

  11. Wait, what if not all the pages are meant to be translated to English? Like they’re all a bunch of different languages when decoded?

  12. what if these guys and shadow are acually the ones who made cicada and this mini documentary was involving clues to crack the 58 page puzzle. i know it sounds crazy but i wouldnt doubt it :/

  13. 10:20 security cameras you can see are visible on purpose. there is never any need to make cameras visible if you don't want them to be. or at least easy to see. sigh.

  14. 20$ says it's something to do with the government. Just because those random people who have managed to crack it, doesn't mean they'll disappear without a trace. They would have told someone, or showed someone, and even if not, let's say they're older than 21, there would be a fingerprint left by someone who "fell off the face of the earth" in this day and age. Anyone smart enough, would think ahead and know that they might be getting into something deep after a few codes cracked. That's my opinion.

  15. I'm sorry that the editor put so much effort in to this but it been cracked already, check out lemmino's video to see what is was the whole time

  16. Makes me wonder who is actually behind this cicada puzzle, is he from the future? How did he come up with such complex puzzles and ideas? What are they gon do with those people who actually solve this thing? Has it been solved already and they just keeping it a secret? Is area 51 related to any of this? Hotel? Trivago

  17. Man I wish I could try to crack it but I have no more then little data being 15 and solo on this this SUCKKKKKKS

  18. Seems to me its just a method to wake up people. but not just that, also to unlock the mind and soul, oneness of the universe. all is connected, some just don't LOOK at what has been there all along. without faith and devotion there is no reward in these games. awaken you're self.

  19. The people making this probably want people to help them but they probably won’t tell everyone the answers or every one will a job for cakadea ( I can’t spell)

  20. cicada said to look for the next code on the website everyone is looking for cicada..would'nt that be google or youtube algorithm codes? thank me later.

  21. i wonder if they have tried the first 3 numbers in the original image multiplied and tried to use that as a key for one page or something they probably have but i was just thinking because at one point cicada says that the answer is staring them right in the face

  22. I think it will be Privately Solve with in a Cabal ( Like the Enigma Code in which although an entirely different example but similar as in in order to pull it off it gets no recognition or take most Organised Crime Movies & Real life for that matter where as cops have to get them on a Bigger Crime & Let them get away on the lesser crime , its not Sexy & its no Movie so it will probably be an anti climax.

  23. Me: Hey brother I heard you like computer science.
    Brother: Sure! It's everyday bro!!
    Me: System.out.println(Cicada 3301);
    I will see you down there after 50 years!!!

  24. My question is this. 3301 is looking for highly intelligent individuals right? People who can solve Cicada. If these guys can’t figure it out and are getting others to solve the runes and cryptograms, does that count as them figuring it out? Other people would have solved it for them. These people that the team are going to for answers aren’t part of the core Cicada solving team, so will 3301 still accept the team if most of the puzzle and the runes are solved by outside help?

    Either way I love these guys and what they stand for. Hope they figure it out. They deserve it

  25. They always say the key is right in front of you. I wonder if there is meaning in cicada picture. I'm sure they have beat that horse to death but still, maybe there is a stenograph link somewhere; dna sequences or even the oscillating audible frequencies they produce. If you have ever gone camping and a group of cicada's chime in, omg it's soooo loud you just want to pull out your flamethrower and set the forest on fire.

  26. One extremely good puzzle maker is sitting in the world somewhere laughing his ass off while creating a puzzle and while somone is solving his latest puzzle he creates another puzzle that links to it. He does this over and over again with no end but he gets extreme amusement out of it and continues on and on never ending. 😀 !

  27. Libre Primus… "The answer has always been in front of your eyes." The very first puzzle involved prime numbers. 3301 is a prime number. Perhaps decoding the Libre Primus involves prime numbers in some way. Have we really tried utilising all mathematical patterns involving prime numbers under all configurations?

  28. Looked at all 4 episodes.
    What have I learned about Cicada?
    Nothing more than what I already knew. Now I just know the names of the people working to solve it. Great videos, but with no conclusion.

  29. Angel numerology number 3301 – "There is a possibility that the process of self-improvement has become “running in circles,” and you got caught up in it." sounds like what this group has been doing since 2014 lol

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