Cicada 3301 is a name given to an enigmatic organization that on four occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles and alternate reality games to recruit codebreakers from the public. The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012, and ran for approximately one month. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013, and a third round following the confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014. The stated intent was to recruit "intelligent individuals" by presenting a series of puzzles which were to be solved, each in order, to find the next. No new puzzles were published on January 4, 2015. However, a new puzzle was posted on Twitter on January 5, 2016. The puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography.
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" by The Washington Post, and much speculation exists as to its purpose. Many have speculated that the puzzles are a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, or a cyber mercenary group. Others have claimed Cicada 3301 is an alternate reality game, but the fact that no company or individual has taken credit or tried to monetize it, combined with the fact that no known individuals that solved the puzzles have ever come forward, has led most to feel that it is not. Others have claimed it is run by a bank working on cryptocurrency.