CICADA 3301 – The Internet’s Biggest Mystery


“Even the hardest puzzles have solutions” Anonymous


Back in Jan 2012, An anonymous user posted this image on


Sounds like a prank, right? Maybe.

No one in the community took this message seriously. The image eventually got lost in the sea of thousands of images, posted on 4chan everyday. And that means this image is nothing but just a mere irrelevant time waster.

Just kidding, it’s NOT.

This suspicious thing caught the eye of freaking almost EVERYONE, first on 4chans website and eventually the whole internet.

From lurkers to expert cryptologists, everyone was trying to figure out what this puzzle is. Who was behind this?

There were others too who claimed this image to be fake and assumed that the creator of this image lacked enough “Brain Cells” to understand the basic difference between a good funny prank and a lame-ass time wasting piece of crap no one cares about.

Whatever the opinions people had, one thing was for sure. No one of them had the slightest clue of what they were witnessing.

This was just a beginning to one of greatest mysteries the Internet has ever seen!

This is the story of a true Masterpiece.



So, what was this “Cicada 3301” exactly? What was it’s purpose? Who was behind it?

No one knows for sure.

The anonymous author of this image “3301” challenged users to uncover a message that was hidden somewhere in the image.

“Hello we are looking for highly intelligent individuals to find them we’ve devised a test, there is a hidden message in this image. Find it and it will lead you onto the road to finding us we look forward to meeting. The few that will make it all the way through good luck”

Its been six years since the first image appeared back in 2012. And we still don’t have information about their identity. That’s right, even after all these years, it’s still a mystery.

Questions began to arise about the true identity of the organization/person who was behind this.

Was this puzzle made for NASA’s recruitment process?!

Maybe it’s was a path to join one of the Worlds Top-Secret Intelligence organizations.


Obviously, being a “Secret” organization, they won’t conduct an official recruitment process (unlike someone getting a government job or a private company’s job), As this will reveal their identity. There is a reason why they are called a “Secret” organization.


Let’s get back to the puzzle image and see if we can figure out something. Let’s see where this takes us to.


Time for some Puzzling Action!

Let’s get started.




Cryptologists perplexed on this image in a hope to any clue that they can get.


Surprisingly enough, Just a few minutes later, someone figured out that this image was trying to tell us something.

The clue was not about in caption, but was somewhere hidden in the “image” file itself.

He Downloaded this image file from the post and opened this image using a text editor application.

The solver figured out that by opening the image file using a text editor, a string of readable text can be found out.

CLAVDIVS CAESAR says “lxxt> 33m2mqkyv2gsq3q=w]02ntk”

The above text  (or string) contained a Cipher (it’s like a code) that needed someone to decipher it (decode the message). It’s like a sentence written in a  secret language and has clues inside it, for someone intelligent enough to figure them out and decipher it.

After decoding this cipher. We get this.

As you can see this is a link to some image on the internet.


This was the image. Lol


Looks like they are trying to make us realize how insignificant irrelevant stupid people we are compared to those who will solve this puzzle. At least the expressions of this creature “🦆” says a lot xD.

So, what do you think? How do we get past this one?

As you might guess that there is no way anyone will get past this one. Clearly, this appears to be a dead end.

Or was it?

At first glance, no one was able to get a clue.

But the clue was there (as usual) and this time, it was the caption of the image(we didn’t use a text editor this time).

“WHOOPS, just decoys this way. Looks like you can’t guess how to get the message out.”

Can you notice these two words in the above phrase “Out” and “Guess”? If you combine these two words together, you get this “Outguess”. This was the clue.

For those of you who don’t know what an “Outguess” is. It’s a kind of an application that inserts and extracts files, texts, audio etc, to an image. By using this application you can easily hide any kind of file that you want (games, songs, porn etc.)

By using Outguess, users were able to extract hidden information embedded within the first image.


Time to level things up.

This extracted information that we got from Outguess lead to a link to this subreddit website page.


This subreddit contained information about a Book along with a code hidden somewhere in it.

And once again, our highly intellectual hero’s decoded this encrypted message without much effort.

I am skipping the explanation Part of this stage. The reason for this is because it’s a little bit complicated and if I explain this, this article will exceed  3000 words, which is a little bit more than the standard word limit.

If you still want to know how they decoded this subreddit page, you can check out this Wikia page here. Click on “The Code” section and you will get all the details.

In lay man’s language, this subreddit page led us to decipher (decode) yet another ciphered message.

This was the decoded message.

 (214) 390-960

Yes, you guessed that right, it’s a phone number.

In the next stage, we will call on this number and see where this ridiculously exciting puzzle takes us to.


Calling on this phone number led to this pre-recorded automatic message.


“Very Good, You have done well. There are three prime numbers associated with the original final.jpg image, 3301 is one of them. You will have to find the other two. Multiply all three of these numbers together and add a .com. On the end to find the next step. GOOD LUCK. GOODBYE”

Next day, the image (initial image) got reposted all over the internet and extremely popular.

This was more like what they show you in Hollywood movies. It was at this time when people started to take this thing seriously. It didn’t look like some work of a lame prankster by any angle.

Let’s continue..

This time, we needed to find those two mysterious numbers mentioned in the phone call.

Large groups of armchair detectives reached this stage (phone call) but still, no one seemed to have a clue about it.


It turned out that the two “missing numbers” mentioned in the phone call, were height and width of the original image.


Multiplying the height and width of the image with number 3301 and we get this.

503 x 509 x 3301 = 845145127  

And as the message told us to add a .Com with this number, it’s what we are going to do.

This was the link.

And the guess was right, this indeed was a website and a Gateway to our next clue.




The website had an image of a Cicada (this is the reason we call it cicada 3301).

Once you enter the website , you would see a countdown on the page.

Once this countdown comes to zero, we get something similar to this.


These suspicious numbers were coordinates of different locations scattered across globe.

These 14 different locations were set in 5 different countries. Most of these locations were  from the US (Fuck you America).

This was the time to get out of your comfort zone, leave your home and move to these locations if you still want to continue with this puzzle.

The only problem with this is that these locations were mostly in the US and some European countries. And if you happened to be someone who lives in Asia (or any other country that’s far away from these locations), good luck with your flight tickets because there is no other way for you to find out the next clue except physically going to these locations (i assume you don’t live in Antarctica. I can be wrong tho).

Those who believed in the fact that Cicada is the gateway to a secret organization or society, these guys now started to feel that the views they had earlier might actually be true.

In their opinion, only some international collective process had the capability and resources to create a scavenger hunt of this fucking huge magnitude.

And That’s a valid point too. What kind of person will go to different countries to just put clues for his own personal scavenger hunt? Unless you got tons of money in your account balance, shit amount of time to waste and no motivation to live a normal life, go for it.

At every given location, a poster was installed with the symbol of cicada (to prove that this was their clue) and a QR code ( i am guessing what would happen if someone takes these posters out or makes a drawing on it before a player reaches that spot.  Good luck gamers, Cicada is tougher than you thought. Lol)



The QR codes on these images linked to an image, the image, as usual, contained a riddle, the riddle gave a clue to a book and the book finally let to a website. Blah Blah Blah.

The same old process right?

And Just when you thought that this might get a little easy from here.

Not so fast

Here is where the puzzle gets an unexpected turn.


This was basically a qualifier to real the FINAL STAGE of the puzzle. Do you think they will make this easy for them to surpass this level?

Only a few selected groups of people who reached this far were allowed to enter. Anyone else who gets after this will get disqualified. After this, the website eventually got closed with this message

“we want the best, not the followers” 

Not just that but the finalists were also warned not to collaborate with anyone else and do not share the details to anyone outside at this private stage of the puzzle.

The irony is the fact that we know about this puzzle. So, Its safe to say, not everyone in the finalist’s group had plans to follow each and every one of cicadas instructions.

This was their last mistake too. They tried to cheat and guess what must happened?

They got disqualified!

That’s life for you. “You die when you lie”

But those who indeed followed all the rules (which includes hiding any kind of information about this mission) presumably advanced through these final stages and reached the very end of the puzzle.




After about a month of silence, this image appeared on the subreddit.

The image was the conclusion of this long Scavenger hunt.

It was finally over.

But there was a problem. Lack of a proper explanation or information to the general public about Cicada 3301’s identity.

The main questions we had before remained unanswered.

Who was behind this puzzle? What was the aim of this puzzle? What happens once you reach the end?

By the end of December, almost everyone forgot about it.



It was time for Round 2.

Exactly 366 days later, on 5th of Jan 2013. A second image got posted on  /x/ and /b/ imageboards on 4chan.


The second puzzle was a lot similar to the first one.

The same old procedure, image enclosed a message, the message leads to a book, the book produced a link and gradually the puzzle unfolded.

But this puzzle was multiple times harder than the first one for obvious reasons.

Again, another set of the first group of people was accepted for the final stage (private stage) of the puzzle.

But unlike the first puzzle, the second one never concluded with an official message from Cicada.

This ended just like before and Cicada vanished once again leaving us with no answer.

However, this was still not the end.

“Round 3”

On January 4th, 2014 another image was uploaded on Imgur.


The puzzle showed up in 2013 and 2014 on the exact same date but it got disappeared in 2015.

Since then, there is been no puzzle posted so far.

Except for one time in 2016. On 4th Jan 2016, they posted a clue on Twitter. Unfortunately, no one ever succeeded to figure it out.

This was the end of this mysterious puzzle which shocked the whole internet for years.

Will there be a Cicada 3301 puzzle in Future?

No one knows for sure. But many people are eagerly awaiting its arrival.

So the bottom line is, Cicada 3301 is, was, and will probably continue to be the greatest unsolved mystery internet has ever seen.

But that’s it, Unless someone from the official group comes out and reveals the group’s true identity and its purpose.  Maybe 4th Jan 2019 will be the next big day. Only time will tell.

Till then, let’s hope for the best….

Thanks a lot for reading this article.

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