Cicada 3301 is a name given to an enigmatic organization that on six occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles and alternate reality games to possibly recruit codebreakers from the public. The stated intent was to recruit "intelligent individuals" by presenting a series of puzzles which were to be solved, each in order, to find the next.
The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, and ran for approximately one month. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013, and a third round following the confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014. However, a new puzzle was posted on Twitter on January 5, 2016. The puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography.
It has been called "the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age" and is listed as one of the "top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the internet" by The Washington Post, and much speculation exists as to its purpose. Many have speculated that the puzzles are a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, or a cyber mercenary group.
Others have claimed Cicada 3301 is an alternate reality game, but the fact that no company or individual has taken credit or tried to monetize it, combined with the fact that no known individuals that solved the puzzles have ever come forward, has led most to feel that it is not. Others have claimed it is run by a bank working on cryptocurrency. Whatever the case may be, the complexity and depth of this mystery causes us to question why anyone would take the time and resources to develop this puzzle for no reason.
To dive headfirst into the mystery, the first video explains the story in detail, the second displays an example of their work in a wonderfully rendered CGI statement piece, and the third seeks the innermost secrets of the clues left behind by this mysterious group.