By Guest Interviewer: Derrick Smith
How a brilliant young man is breaking the Internet…
When I decided to report on the mystery of CICADA 3301, one of my sources recommended to interview a specific solver. The man he recommended was Sam Blythe, a CICADA solver, but he’s not your typical puzzle cracker. He’s a 17 year old young man from Iowa, and he was a pleasure to interview. His unorthodox ingenuity gave me interesting insight on CICADA, and he ended up getting me thinking about the direction of the world.
CROWENATION: The first question that should be asked is, what drew you to solve CICADA?
SAM BLYTHE: You could say it was a combination of curiosity, interest, and fate. A year ago, I was just browsing the Internet aimlessly, with no purpose, and, a single video that wouldn’t seem to go away, no matter how irrelevant of a video I went to (in comparison to the video). I reluctantly surrendered to YouTube’s algorithm, and I watched it. It was a video on the top 5 weirdest parts of the Internet, yet only one of the selections seemed to interest me, and it was CICADA and their elaborate puzzles. The eerie, steampunk atmosphere of those puzzles captured my interest and curiosity, and, thus, I began my journey.
CN: Wow, that’s impressive! How did you go about solving CICADA puzzles?
SB: When I arrived on CICADA solving groups, everything seemed hopeless. Everyone tried as many ciphers as they knew, at that point. My gut instinct was telling me there’s a way to solve these. Unlike many other solvers, I don’t have cryptography or applied mathematics skills. I just ingested any and all relevant information, and weave them together with logical reasoning. I could only discover the encryption method for Liber Primus before 2017 came around. Now with a seemingly-fresh 2017 puzzle, it’s much more entertaining to find and connect these details, as they become relevant.
CN: Interesting. Do you rely on the community or yourself more?
SB: I rely on myself and others in equal measure. There’s details I might miss and need, that someone else has, and vice versa. Information is a commodity, and both sides benefit from a barter of it. I, however, have less of a bartering circle, nowadays. The 2017 puzzle has been claimed as a fake or a hoax, by many influential solvers, due to a lack of a valid PGP signature, and an official twitter posting
“Cicada 3301 may be using human encryption, by which I mean they may well be purposely creating false leads in order to hide themselves in a sea of doubt, a brilliant strategy that the Cicada actually employs in nature.”
CN: With the community being highly against the 2017 puzzle, what do you think about the authenticity?
SB: Their Twitter and PGP signature has led to security compromises in the past. Last year, Infotomb was DDoSed, supposedly from people using CICADA’s security loopholes. This seems like they took away those identification options, so they can maintain their security. The mainstream media and Wikileaks fiasco could’ve completely compromise their security, as many people theorized they were allegedly associated directly with Wikileaks. It seems in the process they built a better security. Many influential solvers actively refute any possible CICADA post as legitimate, unless either a PGP signature is steganographically in the posts, or a it was uploaded on the official Twitter. A possible ingenious move would be to intentionally remove those identifications, to have these influential members discredit it. It would increase their security measures, as there are less people actively dissecting it. In a way it’s a firewall made of people instead of machines.
CN: That’s an interesting way of looking at it. What is their agenda with these puzzles?
SB: First and foremost, they appear as warnings. Imagery and symbolism of falling imperialistic nations has been prevalent, throughout many of their puzzles. These warnings always seem to be directed towards free, independent thinkers. Many empires would have try and silence these thinkers, as a last ditch effort to maintain their almost crumbling hold on their empire. If the major empire today were to fall, those thinkers would be the first targets. With the current events surrounding the world’s largest superpower(America), it seems a collapse might possibly be more of a reality than previously thought
CN: That’s a deep interpretation of it. How has CICADA solving changed your life?
SB: It gave me an outlet to do what I enjoy doing the most—research and debate. I got the chance to meet a plethora of great people. The debates get heated, but that’s part of the entertainment of it all. I also have to thank it for helping me mature into the adult I need to be. The present always alludes to the past. CICADA puzzles made that connection more visible to me. 2017 is going to be one hell of a year, it’s a prime year after all.