Cicada 3301 is a nickname given to an organization that, on three occasions, has posted a set of puzzles to recruit codebreakers from the public. The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, on 4chan and ran for nearly a month. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013, and then a third round following the confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014. The third puzzle has yet to be solved.
The puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, steganography, and internet anonymity.
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”, and much speculation exists as to its function. Many have speculated that the puzzles are a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, a “Masonic conspiracy” or a cyber mercenary group. Others have claimed Cicada 3301 is an alternate reality game. However, no company or individual has attempted to monetize it.