Cicada: What the Puzzles Can Teach Us About Cryptography and Privacy

Cicada: What the Puzzles Can Teach Us About Cryptography and Privacy – Nox


The online cryptography challenge that’s been sometimes called by the mainstream “the hardest puzzle on the internet” and “one of the greatest online mysteries” certainly earned those titles. Though mostly completed now for some years, there’s a number of valuable things to be learned from how they handled and presented cryptography for both the well-versed as well as the uninitiated. A staggering number of individuals found themselves trying to study cryptography for the first time because of the pull the puzzles had on anyone who came across them, and somehow despite a massive online undertaking to find the creators, the question of their identity remains unanswered now 6 years later. The strategies and the attitudes used in the creation of these challenges could teach us all something about how we approach cryptography teaching and study, as well as how modern approaches to privacy actually fare against interested threats.


I’ve long had a love for online cryptography challenges and puzzles, even before being one of a small number to finish the 2013 Cicada puzzle. I run a series on YouTube explaining puzzle steps and solutions, as well as tutorials on the skills required to approach these problems for people that want to learn. I’m also a Canadian, a Computing Science student, and an obsessive fan of online privacy and the tools that allow for it.