Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy

Kryptos is Blowing My Mind

During my long journey on the road to Toronto recently, I was able to catch up on reading some Wired articles. The one that has stuck in my head is a piece by Steven Levy called Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA Can’t Crack.

The story is about a huge copper and wood sculpture by artist James Sanborn. The sculpture is called Kryptos and it’s home is the CIA’s headquarters.Photo by: kimberlyfaye (busy)

What’s blowing my mind is that the entire piece has been made with a secret code. It’s like easter eggs gamers and DVD junkies find hidden in their entertainment, except it’s almost entirely a secret.

The amazing thing here is that even the brightest minds at the CIA can’t break the code, or at least all of it. It’s broken into four sections called K1, K2, K3 and K4. The first three have been cracked, but without the fourth, the hidden message still remains a total mystery.

Levy wrote:

The 97 characters of K4 remain impenetrable. They have become, as one would-be cracker calls it, the Everest of codes. Both Scheidt and Sanborn confirm that they intended the final segment to be the biggest challenge. There are endless theories about how to solve it. Is access to the sculpture required? Is the Morse code a clue? Every aspect of the project has come under electron-microscopic scrutiny, as thousands of people—hardcore cryptographers and amateur code breakers alike—have taken a whack at it. Some have gone off the deep end: A Michigan man abandoned his computer-software business to do construction so he’d have more time to work on it. Thirteen hundred members of a fanatical Yahoo group try to move the ball forward with everything from complex math to astrology. One typical Kryptos maniac is Randy Thompson, a 43-year-old physicist who has devoted three years to the problem. “I think I’m onto the solution,” he says. “It could happen tomorrow, or it could take the rest of my life.” Meanwhile, some of the seekers are getting tired. “I just want to see it solved,” says Elonka Dunin, a 50-year-old St. Louis game developer who runs a clearinghouse site for Kryptos information and gossip. “I want it off my plate.”

You should really give the article a read, it’s been blowing my mind since I read it. What do you think about it?

Photo by: kimberlyfaye (busy)


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