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Cicada 3301 is a mysterious secret society or think tank that recruits via complex Internet puzzles. It first recruited from the public via Internet puzzle on January 5, 2012, which ran for approximately one month. A second round began exactly one year later on January 5, 2013 and is possibly still ongoing. 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 puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography.
Much speculation exists as to its purpose. Some claim it is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), but the fact that no company or individual has taken credit or tried to monetize the puzzles has led some to feel that it is not. Some have speculated that it is recruitment for the National Security Agency. According to a document posted anonymously, the puzzles are a recruiting for a "think tank." Thus far, this is unverified.
In January 2012, an image was posted to 4chan's "random" board containing a message stating that the poster was looking for intelligent individuals and inviting users to find a hidden message in the image which would lead them on the road to finding them. This image was the first puzzle in the series. The image was reposted by persons to other boards and sites, increasing internet interest in the ARG. People attempting to solve the puzzles grouped together on the mibbit and n0v4 IRC networks, with splinter groups making use of private IRC channels, forums, and skype groups.
The ultimate outcome of both rounds of Cicada 3301 recruiting is still a mystery. The final known puzzles became both highly complex and individualized as the game unfolded, though at least one person has claimed to have "won", but verification from the creator(s) of the game was never made and the individuals making the claim have not been forthcoming with information.
Types of Clues
The Cicada 3301 clues have spanned many different communication mediums including Internet, telephone, original music, bootable Linux CDs, digital images, and physical paper signs. In addition to using many varying techniques to encrypt, encode, or hide data; these clues have referenced a wide variety of books, poetry, artwork, and music. Each clue has been signed by the same GnuPG private key to confirm authenticity. 
Among others, these referenced works include:
- The Mabinogion
- Mayan Numerals
- Agrippa (a book of the dead) by William Gibson
- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake
- Liber AL vel Legis by Aleister Crowley
- The Lady of Shalott (painting) by John William Waterhouse
The use of many mystical works and imagery have prompted some to claim that Cicada 3301 is a cult; this claim has been backed up by some anonymously published documents.
Physical Locations of Clues
- Annapolis, Maryland
- Chino, California
- Columbus, Georgia
- Erskineville, Australia
- Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Granada, Spain
- Greenville, Texas
- Haleiwa, Hawaii
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Miami, Florida
- Moscow, Russia
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Okinawa, Japan
- Paris, France
- Portland, Oregon
- Seattle, Washington
- Seoul, South Korea
- Warsaw, Poland
The fact that the clues have shown up in many far-reaching places at the same time has lent credence to the theory that the Cicada 3301 organization is large, well-funded, or both. 
Allegations of Illegal Activity
Authorities from the Los Andes Province of Chile claim that Cicada 3301 is a "hacker group" and engaged in illegal activities. Cicada 3301 responded to this claim by issuing a PGP-signed statement denying any involvement in illegal activity.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Lipinski, Jed. Chasing the Cicada: Exploring the Darkest Corridors of the Internet. Mental_Floss. Retrieved on 17 December 2012.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Bernstein, Maxwell. 3301.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Eriksson, Joel. 3301. ClevCode.
- ↑ Andes Online. PDI advierte sobre nueva modalidad de estafa por internet a través de google. Andes Online.