Kryptos A Mysterious Sculpture Not Even The Smartest People Not Able To Solve
What Is Kryptos?
Kryptos is a sculpture (the art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms) created by American artist Jim Sanborn. It stands on the ground of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia of USA.
Kryptos was installed in year 1990, and even with so many efforts from a wide range of professionals and non-professional for almost 3 decades, only 3 out of the 4 encrypted messages have been decoded.
It is made up of an S-shaped copper screen on which the codes are inscribed, with other symbolic elements such as a piece of organic wood changed into stony substance, red and green granite, white quartz, and a pool of water surrounding it.
This sculpture contains 1735 alphabets cuts, on which 97 characters belong to the final message that is yet to be cracked.
The CIA claims that kryptos stands as a witness to cryptographic history. It contains a flipped version of a chart called ‘Vigeneries Tableaux’, and this chart can be read only from the back of the sculpture.
Sanborn used ‘Vigeneries Tableaux’ chart system in addition to matrix coding systems to encrypted the first three messages. The fourth message has been designed with so much attentiveness that it still stands as one of the most puzzling mysteries in cryptography.
Now, just months before a dedication ceremony of copper scroll for 30 years of stumping in November experts, Sanborn has released a third and final clue to help professional and non- professional researchers,who are in number of thousands, based on activity in code cracking forums, figure out what the remaining, unsolved 97 character passage says.
But Sanborn says restore to an readable that phrase won’t exactly lead you to quick victory. It’s just the end of step one.
“It’s a 97 character phrase,” he told NPR. “And that phrase is in itself a riddle. It’s mysterious. It’s going to lead to something else. It’s not going to be finished when it’s decoded.
As for the clue itself? It’s one word: NORTHEAST.
A Brief History of Kryptos
In 1990, sculptors first fabricated kryptos. At about 12 feet tall and 20 feet long, the now greenish copper structure offers up some 240 square feet of frustration to all of the CIA employees and codebreakers like video game developer and cryptologist Elonka Dunin, who set eyes on that sculpture.
There are several various parts to kryptos, all scattered around the CIA headquarters. The ultra-famous copper scroll, which contains nearly 1,800 encrypted characters. There are several sheets of copper, carved with Morse Code, and sandwiched between granite slabs. A nearby landscaped area includes more granite slabs and duck pond. Finally, there’s an engraved compass with a needle pointing at a lodestone, a naturally magnetised form of magnetite rock.
Sanborn received a little amount of help from Edward Scheidt, a retired chairman of the CIA cryptographic center, to come up with the codes for each passage. The kryptos message contains a incomplete guide to the code’s solution inside the panels of the sculpture.
Thanks to two previous clues from Sanborn in 2010 and 2014, the first three passages have been solved by NSA employees and James Gillogly, a computer scientist, but the final 97 character portion still mysterious for experts.
“Kryptos considered to be one of the most famous unsolved codes of the world,” Dunin said in a documentary interview. “Here we are going on 30 years, and it still hasn’t been cracked.”
First portion of the kryptos puzzle is a poetic phrase, written by Sanborn, himself:
BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION.
Sanborn says that the misspelling of “illusion“ as “iqlusion” was intentional, to make it tougher for cryptographers to decode.
In the second phrase, the exact latitude and longitude of the CIA headquarters is pointed out, and something buried is hinted at:
DOES LANGLEY KNOW ABOUT THIS? THEY SHOULD: IT’S BURIED OUT THERE SOMEWHERE. X WHO KNOWS THE EXACT LOCATION? ONLY WW.
Apparently “W.W.” is a reference to William Webster, who headed the CIA when the sculpture was first unveiled in 1990. Sanborn allegedly gave him a key to decipher the code.
In the third section, there are lines from Archaeologist Howard Carter’s Diary, describing a door opening into King Tut’s Tomb. Note that there are more misspellings:
SLOWLY, DESPARATLY SLOWLY, THE REMAINS OF PASSAGE DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART OF THE DOORWAY WAS REMOVED. WITH TREMBLING HANDS I MADE A TINY BREACH IN THE UPPER LEFT-HAND CORNER. AND THEN, WIDENING THE HOLE A LITTLE, I INSERTED THE CANDLE AND PEERED IN. THE HOT AIR ESCAPING FROM THE CHAMBER CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER, BUT PRESENTLY DETAILS OF THE ROOM WITHIN EMERGED FROM THE MIST. X CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING? Q
Karl Wang, a student at the University of California San Diego who created a page with the solutions, says third passage is much more difficult to crack than the above two passage.
“The first two parts are straight forward enough that nearly anybody with a simple education in cryptography can solve” he said on his page. “The third part is much more advanced than other two parts , and the fourth part is borderline impossible.”
Gillogly was the first person to publicly announce a solution for the first three parts, which he completed with a computer attack in 1999, according to Dunin website. Afterward, the CIA said its own analyst, David Stein, had also solved those first three parts, and it takes so many years with paper and pencil.
After two years, Stein solution was announced and the NSA claimed that it had a team that solved parts one through three all the way back in 1992, but kept mum. Still, no one have cracked section 4.
To solve the first two passages, codebreakers used vigenere, which is what cryptologists call a polyalphabetic substitution cipher system. It means multiple alphabets are used to encrypt one message. Created in the 16th century by cryptographer Giovan Battista Bellaso, the scheme was easy to create, but hard to crack. It wasn’t until nearly 300 years later that a vigenere cipher was first solved, leading the French to call it “le chiffre indéchiffrable” or “The Indecipherable Cipher” Today, people mostly use computers to crack these codes.
How to Solve the Code
To solve part four, Dunin and other cryptologists have tried every method, from polyalphabetic substitution to transposition. No such luck. Now, with three clues in hand, “BERLIN,” CLOCK,” and “NORTHEAST,” it’s your turn.
Here are the materials you should continue to get ahead in solving the final kryptos cipher:
• Dunin’s website, which includes an encyclopedia of knowledge on the cipher.
• This story by Kim Zetter at Wired, which gets into the basic of solving parts of the cipher.
• This book by Craig Bauer, which describes, at length, how first three portions were solved.
If you think you have the answer right, visit to Sanborn website, where you can find best way to contact him to see if your solution is correct. Right now, it’s an email process that costs $50 per entry.
If all else fails, don’t get too hard on yourself. “Kryptos“ is Greek for “hidden” and it looks like the answers to this puzzle might take away for another 30 years, or at least until Sanborn dies and auctions off the solution to the code. He told The New York Times that any of the money raised through an auction will go to climate science.