“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 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 — known as K1, K2 and K3 — have been solved. However K4, the last part of the message, remains 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 — 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 III : A Transposition Cipher
UPDATE (November 20 2019) — A well informed person has posted an interesting comment regarding my last piece on KRYPTOS.
The short comment contains 3 pieces of information.
First, the person — Richard — points out that the CIA clue regarding the importance of the text alignment had already been posted on the CIA website in April 2010. This information is correct and the page can still be viewed although the link to the panels no longer works.
“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. To view imagery of the Kryptos panels, click here.” [CIA Webpage — April 2010]
Second, Richard suggests that the “Text alignment” quote probably refers to lining up the columns for K1 and K2.
This information is certainly NOT TRUE. Both K1 and K2 have been encoded with a keyed Vigenère cypher and respectively PALIMPSEST and ABSCISSA as passphrases.
The exact alignment of the characters is therefore totally irrelevant as only the correct sequence of the characters matters.
Of course, I use K1 to K4 to refer to the four parts of the coded message as defined, for instance, in the Kryptos Wikipedia page.
Could it be that K1 and K2 means something else to KRYPTOS insiders? I simply do not know. (For instance, it could mean the top and bottom part of the left side of the sculpture?)
Last, but certainly not least, Richard suggests that the CIA will release in new clue in the near future.
“Be patient, another clue will come in 2019.”
If true, that is fantastic news. And actually, it would not surprise me that much. As I wrote before, I believe that the CIA would like the Kryptos code to be solved before the 30 years anniversary (November 3 2020).
PS: In fact, the exact alignment of the characters is also totally irrelevant for decoding K3… So, if the CIA advice is correct, it can only apply to the decoding of K4!
PS2: Jim Sanborn’s worksheets are available and I will discuss how much we can learn from them soon. I will argue that we can still learn a few things about K1, K2, and K3.
END of UPDATE
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.
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?
KRYPTOS Week 2019 — New Clues from the CIA Website? [UPDATE : Get Ready for a New Clue!]