KRYPTOS Week 2019 — New Clues from the CIA Website?

“I hope I have inspired some people to study the Kryptos puzzle and to give it a try. Even the parts of the code that already have been decrypted still have to be interpreted for their deeper meaning. There are many pieces to be put together and many layers to be peeled away.”

David Stein — CIA analyst (Directorate of Intelligence)

Kryptos at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia

Kryptos is a sculpture by the American artist Jim Sanborn located on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia. Of the four parts of the message, the first three have been solved. The last part of the message remains as one of the most famous unsolved code in the world. The CIA has recently provided new clues that have been unnoticed. It would appear that the CIA would like the Kryptos code to be solved before the 30 years anniversary (November 3 2020).  Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — Introduction : Sculpture Dedication Ceremony at the CIA (November 3 1990)

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — How to Break a Vigenère Code

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — The Solution of Section II

RELATED POST : KRYPTOS Week 2019 — History of the NSA Involvement

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — SECTION I : A KEYED Vigenère Cipher [And why the CIA lies so much about it?]

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — SECTION III : A Transposition Cipher

RELATED POST: KRYPTOS Week 2019 — SECTION IV : A Few Clues From Edward Scheidt

RELATED POST: The KRYPTOS Sculpture — New Clues from the CIA Website?

The CIA Kryptos page was posted on April 30, 2007 (06:54 AM) and last updated on April 22, 2019 (06:50 AM).

I believe that a very important clue has been given in the last update.

Actually, I was not aware of this page and I can not  be sure that this information was a result of the April 2019 update.

But it is certainly news to me and, to the best of my knowledge,  it has never been reported until now.


The ciphertext on the left-hand side of the sculpture (as seen from the courtyard) of the main sculpture contains 869 characters in total (865 letters and 4 question marks).

The right-hand side of the sculpture comprises a keyed Vigenère encryption tableau, consisting of 867 letters.

In our previous posts about KRYPTOS, we learned how to break a Vigenère code and we apply this knowledge to decode the entire section I and II.

The section III involves a different kind of encryption method and I gave you a novel solution in our latest post.

Section IV has never be decoded.

Encrypted Text of KRYPTOS Section IV


Two “old” clues from Sanborn

When commenting in 2006 about his error in passage 2, Sanborn said that the answers to the first three passages contain clues to the fourth passage. [ Zetter, Kim — WIRED (April 20, 2006). Typo Confounds Kryptos Sleuths]

In November 2010, Sanborn released a clue, publicly stating that “NYPVTT”, the 64th-69th letters in passage four, become “BERLIN” after decryption. [Schwartz, John (2010-11-20). “Artist releases clue to Kryptos”. The New York Times ] [All Things Considered. “‘Kryptos’ Sculptor Drops New Clue In 20-Year Mystery”. NPR.]

Sanborn gave The New York Times another clue in November 2014: the letters “MZFPK”, the 70th-74th letters in passage four, become “CLOCK” after decryption.[ “A New Clue to ‘Kryptos’”. The New York Times. 20 November 2014.]

The 74th letter is K in both the plaintext and ciphertext, meaning that it is possible for a character to encrypt to itself.

This means it does not have a weakness, where a character could never be encrypted as itself, that was known to be inherent in the German Enigma machine. It is believed that the “BERLINCLOCK” plaintext may be a direct reference to the Berlin Clock.

Sanborn further stated that in order to solve passage 4, “You’d better delve into that particular clock,” but added, “There are several really interesting clocks in Berlin.”

New Clues from the CIA?

I have long wondered if it was possible to decode KRYPTOS without direct access to the sculpture. Indeed, I suspected that the exact alignment of the characters is fundamental.

Well, the last update of the CIA KRYPTOS page appears to confirm my suspicion.

“Below, please find the text version of the Kryptos code. If you would like to test your code-cracking skills, view the panels as they appear on the sculpture.

The text alignment on the panels is a vital part of solving the puzzle.”

This information, if true, is obviously a very important clue.

It is however a bit of a mystery as we have always been told that only Sanborn knew the methods used to encode the text of KRYPTOS and that he only gave the solution to one person: the then-CIA Director William Webster.

The CIA website also reveals the following information:

“To produce the code for “Kryptos,” Mr. Sanborn worked for four months with a retired CIA cryptographer to devise the codes used in the sculpture.

Mr. Sanborn wrote the text to be coded in collaboration with a prominent fiction writer.”

The “prominent fiction writer” is almost certainly Dan Brown.

The dust jacket of the US version of Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” contains two references to Kryptos – one on the back cover (coordinates printed light red on dark red, vertically next to the blurbs) is a reference to the coordinates mentioned in the plaintext of passage II, except the degrees digit is off by one.

When Brown and his publisher were asked about this, they both gave the same reply:

“The discrepancy is intentional”.

Kryptos also features in Dan Brown’s 2009 novel “The Lost Symbol”.

It would appear that the CIA would like the Kryptos code to be solved before the 30 years anniversary (November 3 2020).

Panel 1 – Encoded Text

Panel 2 – Cipher

Cracking the Uncrackable Code

Published on July 8, 2019 —  Jim Sanborn created a sculpture containing a secret message.

It sits on the grounds of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Yet no one has been able to solve it.

Code breakers from around the world have tried for 30 years.

They’re stumped.

The artist meets with people like cryptologist Elonka Dunin who are desperate to solve the mystery at his Maryland studio every year or so.

But Sanborn won’t divulge any clues. It’s too much fun keeping everyone guessing.



Kryptos — Wikipedia

Stein, David D. (1999). “The Puzzle at CIA Headquarters: Cracking the Courtyard Crypto” (pdf). Studies in Intelligence. 43 (1).


The KRYPTOS Sculpture — New Clues from the CIA Website?

KRYPTOS Week 2019 — New Clues from the CIA Website?

This entry was posted in KRYPTOS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to KRYPTOS Week 2019 — New Clues from the CIA Website?

  1. Richard says:

    The “Text alignment” quote was there in April 2010 and probably refers to lining up the columns for K1 and K2. Sorry!

    Be patient, another clue will come in 2019.


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