Uncovering Cicada Wiki

The Invitation

The original image uploaded on January 4th.

It had been exactly 366 days since the 2012 Cicada puzzle began. Nothing had happened in 11 months.

Until the 5th of January 2013, when a second image was posted to /x/ and /b/ imageboards on 4chan. There were three threads where 3301 posted 232.jpg on 4chan, two times on /b/ 23 hours apart(1,2) and once on /x/.

There was another thread one day earlier, /b/ thread on 4th that mentioned "warning pastebin" and SMS4TOR (onion.to link) service.

Hello again. Our search for intelligent
individuals now continues.

The first clue is hidden within 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


The image was processed by the steganographic tool outguess. This message was the result. A more analytic look reveals the use of a book cipher. To decrypt the message, one needs to find the text that was used for encrypting.

PGP-Signed Message
Hash: SHA1

Welcome again.

Here is a book code.  To find the book, break this riddle:

A book whose study is forbidden
Once dictated to a beast;
To be read once and then destroyed
Or you shall have no peace. 


Good luck.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.11 (GNU/Linux)


This poem, introducing the secret message, was a nudge towards the right text. After a bit of debate, the text that was used to encrypt the book cipher was discovered.

The Law (Liber AL vel Legis)

The book that was used to hide the message was Liber AL vel Legis by Aleister Crowley. Also known as "The Book of Law ", it is available online, and can be found here . The first line I:1:6 points toward the 6th character of the first line in the first chapter, an 'h' in this case. It was assumed that spaces weren't counted. Punctuation, however, influenced the character chosen for the plaintext. During decrypting, we found that dashes were vital to the process, so we kept them in the plaintext. Using these rules, we encrypted the book cipher and came up with the decrypted message.


We agreed upon substituting the dashes with slashes and came up with a hyperlink.

The System

The hyperlink (mirror, mirror 2) directed to a dropbox address with a file of 130MB ready for download. After downloading, the file was analysed and a quick check for magic bytes (header bytes) revealed that the offered file was an .iso image.

Screenshot from the video showing the prime number sequence being printed.

The image file was downloaded by multiple solvers and either burned to disc to run on a computer or opened in a virtual drive. Looking into its contents, we find three directories, "data", "boot" and "audio".

When booting from the image, a boot sequence appeared, printing a sequence of numbers to the screen. Investigating the sequence revealed that the live image prints out all prime numbers up to 3301. There were temporary two-second pauses at 1033 and 3301, where it stops at the latter and moves to the second stage. The next, and last stage of the procedure is a screen that reads:


The key is all around you.

Good luck.


Further analysis of the live image turned up the routine responsible for the display of the prime numbers. It is a linux shell script (found here , for those interested), which, luckily, is human-readable. It does not calculate prime numbers, like some suggested, but connected the printing command with a sleep command. In most cases, the sleep time is 0.5 seconds. In case of the primes 1033 and 3301 however, the sleep time is 2 seconds, which manifested the relevance of those two numbers. Also, this clue said "you" not "we", differing from the last one in the choice of words.

Also found in the image was this PGP signature, which has been verified to be 3301's official signature released during the puzzle in 2012.

It is possible to interrupt the boot sequence by pressing CTRL+C. User "tc" is active and does not require a password, is in sudoers file with no prompt. `sudo ash` to raise to root.

Another video of Cicada OS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTFa6dwCEiA

The Music

The folder "audio" contained an audio recording. The title of the recording was "761.mp3" and can be downloaded here. The ID3 tags show us that the title of the file is "The Instar Emergence" and the artist "3301". The used instrument is a guitar, with distorting effects on it. On the track, a reversed guitar is played and amplified throughout. The song has been deconstructed and checked for hidden reversed messages, but as of yet has turned up nothing out of the ordinary.

The song is in the key of D♭ minor with a custom guitar tuning of D♭-A♭-D♭-G♭-A♭-D♭

You can listen to the song here:


Cicada 3301 Song The Instar Emergence (761)

The song found on the ISO

Key points about the track is the initial 'breath' sound, believed to be the sound of many cicadas and the tempo changes, beginning at approximately 135 bpm, accelerating to 145bpm, then slowing to 125bpm. This has led some to believe that the song has been slowed down by 5%. The only instruments used were a guitar acoustic and electric and an effect driven bass drum.

A draft spectral anlysis shows a constant hum at 15.4-16.1kHz, and empty notches under 500Hz starting from 1:56. A hexdump of the mp3 file revealed the following message:

The Instar Emergence

Parable 1,595,277,641 
Like the instar, tunneling to the surface
We must shed our own circumferences;
Find the divinity within and emerge.

The original message had "\n" attached to the end of each line. This character sequence is used to indicate a new line in some programming languages. These were omitted due to the availability of proper formatting techniques.

The subgroup who were assigned the task of analyzing the poem/riddle above have speculated that circumferences might be a reference to perceived limitations rather than actual physical walls. "Find the divinity within and emerge" is most likely a reference to the divine ratio, or phi. Such shedding may also be a reference to the way Cicadas shed their shells.

It has also been pointed out that the song is 2:47 long, or 167 seconds, which is prime. It is also a reversal of the name of the file: 761.mp3, and 761 is also prime.

Meaning of Parable 1.595.277.641

The Twitter

While people still searched through the image to find more hints that may have been overlooked, somebody in the IRC found a twitter account which got our attention, to say the least. Multiple things were strange about that twitter. It fits the overall "style" of cicada, it was registered shortly after the first downloads of the live image and it had no followers. It was later found to be the reference on the boot CD to @1231507051321 (note: 1231507051321 is a palindromic prime number). The most striking thing about it though was the messages it tweeted.

Each tweet consisted of an offset, and 65 bytes of hex code. For example, the first message went like so:

0000000: b69ccce300104a464802545959580001008d0000ff8b6131616a6a632737293d3e322b3b3e3f263a203c0c4762677c326767713d73716d697b6e3000505b494e47

3301 appears to have used a bot to post the tweets at 5 minute intervals (up until 0:00 GMT Jan 7), then onto four minute intervals until 19:00 GMT Jan 7, where it was seemingly random up until 22:04 GMT Jan 7, where it moved onto two minute intervals. The twitter bot stopped posting tweets at 4:52 GMT on Jan 8.

The meaning of the tweets and the rest of the files left the solvers stumped for several hours. A full feed of the tweets is avaliable here.

The Gematria

Result of xor-ing the twitter information with 761.mp3

After a day of fruitless searching, an IRC user did the impossible and solved the next puzzle. This user took the 761.mp3 file, and XORed it with the file produced by following the instructions in the twitter. The result was a .jpg file. It was possible to "pre"-construct the image resulting from the tweets.

The .jpg file appears to be a rune table, consisting of three columns, named "Rune", "Letter" and "Value", and 29 entries. "Rune" contains the actual rune character, "Letter" contains one or more plain text characters and "Value" contains a number. It is interesting to note that the numbers to be found in "Value" are all ascending primes, building the sequences of the first 29 prime numbers. As a member in the IRC pointed out, the runes stem from the Anglo-Saxon rune set, and the letters are in the order of the Anglo-Saxon runes. It was revealed that this is a fully-blown Gematria, which can be applied to different pieces of text to reveal interesting numbers. 'The Instar Emergence', for example, produces 761, which is the name of the file and the file's time signature reversed.

It was soon discovered that this image, like the very first one, contained a hidden message, once again masked via OutGuess. The message itself can be found here. As in every message from Cicada, the content was followed by a PGP signature, which proved the authenticity of the message

PGP-Signed Message
Hash: SHA1




Version: GnuPG v1.4.11 (GNU/Linux)


Note: although this message is from a trusted source, PGP is not capable of verifying the whitespace in the message aside from newlines. PGP messages from untrusted sources may contain modified whitespace but will still produce "Good" verifications.

The Onion, part 1 of 2

After finally getting a message from 3301, the solvers found that it was, to quote the IRC, 'Mostly Blank'. The message, it turned out, contained a mixture of tabs and spaces. The solvers converted this to binary, then again to ASCII, then they found the next message:

"Come to emiwp4muu2ktwknf.onion"

"We shall await you there." 

"Good luck." 


A quick filler: emiwp4muu2ktwknf.onion is a website that can only be accessed through Tor, which is using a hidden service URL, similar to the last Cicada puzzle.

Upon visiting the website, the solvers were presented with the following message:

Note: the formatting may be a little off on your screen. Press control/command and - to view the full message.

Web browsers are useless here.

      ,+++77777++=:,                    +=                      ,,++=7++=,,
    7~?7   +7I77 :,I777  I          77 7+77 7:        ,?777777??~,=+=~I7?,=77 I
=7I7I~7  ,77: ++:~+7 77=7777 7     +77=7 =7I7     ,I777= 77,:~7 +?7, ~7   ~ 777?
77+7I 777~,,=7~  ,::7=7: 7 77   77: 7 7 +77,7 I777~+777I=   =:,77,77  77 7,777,
  = 7  ?7 , 7~,~  + 77 ?: :?777 +~77 77? I7777I7I7 777+77   =:, ?7   +7 777?
      77 ~I == ~77= +777 777~: I,+77?  7  7:?7? ?7 7 7 77 ~I   7I,,?7 I77~
       I 7=77~+77+?=:I+~77?     , I 7? 77 7   777~ +7 I+?7  +7~?777,77I
         =77 77= +7 7777         ,7 7?7:,??7     +7    7   77??+ 7777,
             =I, I 7+:77?         +7I7?7777 :             :7 7
                7I7I?77 ~         +7:77,     ~         +7,::7   7
               ,7~77?7? ?:         7+:77777,           77 :7777=
                ?77 +I7+,7         7~  7,+7  ,?       ?7?~?777:
                   I777=7777 ~     77 :  77 =7+,    I77  777
                     +      ~?     , + 7    ,, ~I,  = ? ,


Establishing a connection

The solvers soon found that web browsers were indeed useless, and that we would have to telnet into the website through the tor network. Some solvers did so, and they found that the website included an interactive shell. They could type in any number to have it factorized, 'count' to have it count up prime numbers, 'quit' to quit, and 'hello' to return a message. Please see here for the original message.

It was soon discovered that the messages could be turned into ASCII which created another message, again GPG signed by 3301. The message reads as follows:

Very good.
You have done well to come this far.
Good luck.

This led us to another, the second .onion address.

The Clues

As the solvers patiently waited for more news about the second .onion, they continued to explore other options that they may have overlooked in the blind rush towards victory.

A new message was found by telnetting "hint" or "clue". And XORing result with _560.00 file from the DATA folder on 3301.iso CD image.

You can't see the forest when you're looking at the trees.

Good luck.


Full Message:
"hint" output:


In Cicada OS the solvers found two files named wisdom and folly in /tmp


Wisdom is exactly the same as folly. Neither appear to represent a file type.


Telnetting 'primes' into the shell printed out a list of primes similar to the one on Cicada OS, but some primes were missing and two have extra spaces in front of them.

There were extra spaces between 29-31 and 3257-3259
And some missing primes between 71-1229

The missing primes are as follows:

   73     79     83     89     97     101    103    107    109    113 
   127    131    137    139    149    151    157    163    167    173 
   179    181    191    193    197    199    211    223    227    229 
   233    239    241    251    257    263    269    271    277    281 
   283    293    307    311    313    317    331    337    347    349 
   353    359    367    373    379    383    389    397    401    409 
   419    421    431    433    439    443    449    457    461    463 
   467    479    487    491    499    503    509    521    523    541 
   547    557    563    569    571    577    587    593    599    601 
   607    613    617    619    631    641    643    647    653    659 
   661    673    677    683    691    701    709    719    727    733 
   739    743    751    757    761    769    773    787    797    809 
   811    821    823    827    829    839    853    857    859    863 
   877    881    883    887    907    911    919    929    937    941 
   947    953    967    971    977    983    991    997    1009   1013 
   1019   1021   1031   1033   1039   1049   1051   1061   1063   1069 
   1087   1091   1093   1097   1103   1109   1117   1123   1129   1151 
   1153   1163   1171   1181   1187   1193   1201   1213   1217   1223

You can use a hosted telnet service to access the tor website here.

The Onion, Part 2 of 2

Once the solvers had found the second .onion, the next logical step was to visit it with a browser. Upon arrival, they found the following:

Patience is a virtue.

Rummaging through the source code for the html, they found the following:

		Patience is a virtue.
		<!-- which means, come back soon. -->

Soon afterwards, someone attempted to telnet into it, producing an error message which contained the address of the VPS on which the site was hosted. Promptly afterwards, the site was taken down.

After this the 2nd Onion site finally reopened. The solvers got the following hint:

You already have everything you need to continue.
Sometimes one must "knock on the sky and listen to the sound."
Good luck.

This hint told the solvers that they needed to ping the website's IP address and listen to the reply. Each ping reply was laced with data bytes, which could be combined to make the following:

PGP-Signed Message
Hash: SHA1

Well done.  You have come far.


Good luck.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.11 (GNU/Linux)


The Third Onion

On the third Onion page the solvers recieved a message instructing them to 'standby for coordinates'. They prepared to visit the addresses which these would undoubtedly lead them to.

Each poster had a phone number on it as well as an access code. Note that each phone number either ends in 3301 or 1033.

Calling the phone number gave an automated speech asking for a code to be typed into the dialer. Solvers soon realised that they had to convert the access code given in the poster to it's gematrified format and type that in. Upon doing so the following message was given (it varied depending on location, this one was for Portland):



The data, when XORed with the 560.13 (the 13 coming from the dataset) file from DATA, provided the user with a string of text, notably in this case "gbyh7znm6c7ezsmr.onion". It's important to note that each location gave a different onion address.

All in all, 6 of the locations had their codes recovered, while the seventh was not physically visited, but the phone number obtained by wardialing all numbers ending in 1033.

On each of these onion addresses (as listed in the table below), each solver was given an SSSS code, which stands for Shamir's Secret Sharing Scheme. A secret sharing scheme allows someone to share a secret with a certain number of people, who each get their own string. Once enough of these secrets come together, they can be combined to create the final secret. Each location, its SSSS code and some other data on each part is in the below table:

Location Coordinates Image Phone # Access code Message file / offset Message Onion SSSS
Dallas TX 33.092817, -96.08265 +1 205-396-3301 JD: 3789 17, offset 16433 (actually 33461) f6a2d0a48e1b1ae40cbd454f77baa7d2557683d0cd4998 y2wyuvrqraowagc5.onion 02-41cc481a51fe77f91600f593c1db2ce9babd2626ea6e
Okinawa Japan 26.41968, 127.73254 img +1 626-586-1033 YF: 1032 13, offset 37861 f286b8438cb85eb191ec7bf10a28a54ec06f9a27eb91c5 wzwmcwmsk5cb7gjn.onion 03-7678a5f6b72042d839151b34b02ffe161cf997fed484
Moscow, Russia 55.793765, 37.578608 img +1 928-237-3301 CR: 1311 13, offset 1111111 c657b2707c4266fda4af4a83acf19cc46e69540c0bc5da qw7mhchzvuq6f2mf.onion 05-fcd82965b6632ea25d80edc3e58baafb4b2938895cbd
Little Rock, AR 34.7477910, -92.2690863 img +1 719-428-3301 LM: 7167 13, offset 13831 5edb5e8029dd2182560da925ec6cd3e1257efc0b8328b4 4l6uipnstbggwjyv.onion 07-f3adb3aacb0b4336fa28178bc1e5edce940c16ce5caa
Annapolis, MD* 38.977845, -76.486451 *was not physically recovered +1 253-655-1033 PX: 4347 17, offset 77977 d5a6cb76e55a2166bd6a4d78857ec1f68ea6afa9738 erwfcsdvx6pm2rsk.onion 08-b970e507dbc4ac115a273126f62671654c480fce32e5
Portland, OR 45.50092, -122.652512 img +1 424-999-1033 GH: 1723 13, offset 12821 28c07e1b102d4d5c4c1a376e064477e1416fcc94928765 gbyh7znm6c7ezsmr.onion 09-82a98a7fe06014f783b752506cf6cd1fabaa3d8b3750
Columbus, GA 32.478944, -84.983674 img +1 469-251-1033 NR: 2911 17, offset 617 d4b10626d65995e8fb010f4388787d56433f90c6df8d8d ll5afyskb6v6g7ga.onion


Once 5 of 10 SSSS codes had been retrieved, they could be decrypted to form their message, which was:


This was the fifth onion.

Here is how test looked: http://imgur.com/a/YFA1a

Here ends Part 1 of What Happened during the 2013 Cicada puzzle, and also ends the part of the 2013 puzzle that was fully publicly available. Part 2 is available here, and relies entirely on leaks (which may also comprise integrity).