Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: admin on May 7, 2010, 2:35 p.m.

Kryptos is a sculpture made by the US artist Jim Sanborn. It is located next to the headquarters of the CIA in Langley, VA. An encrypted message was written on the sculpture. The message consists of four independent parts.

The first three parts have been solved, but the fourth one has so far withstood every attempt at decryption.

 Last edited by: admin on Sept. 7, 2022, 3:13 p.m., edited 1 time in total.

Re: Challenge "Kryptos": Weiterer Hinweis /New Hint by Autho  

  By: be on Nov. 22, 2010, 6:38 p.m.

Laut "Spiegel-Online" (,1518,730308,00.html) sind nun bei der Challenge "Kryptos" [schmeh-05]  von den 97 Buchstaben sechs bekannt gegeben worden.

According to "The New York Times" ( Jim Sanborn, the sculptor who created “Kryptos” and its puzzles, revealed six of the 97 characters in the final series on the sculpture: The characters that are the 64th through 69th read NYPVTT. When deciphered, they read BERLIN.

Re: Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: Veselovský on Sept. 20, 2011, 5:46 p.m.

Since there is the word "BERLIN" in plaintext and it should be a clue for solving it, then I think that Enigma was somehow engaged in the process of encryption of plaintext.

The first word which comes to my mind in association with word Berlin and cryptanalysis is Enigma.

So perhaps plaintext was first encrypted by some "simpler" cipher (for example substitution) and then by Enigma.

I played with it a little using Enigma analysis but haven't found anything.
I just thought it would be a good idea for others with better Enigma cracking experiences.

But on the other hand I read somewhere that Kryptos was meant to be solved with pencil and paper, so this contradicts that Enigma was used here. (Or can Enigma cipher be decoded by hand and pencil?)

Re: Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: fretty on Sept. 20, 2011, 8:07 p.m.

The fact that BERLIN appears in the plaintext does not imply that BERLIN has a connection with the encryption algorithm. If you read the other Kryptos plaintexts you will see that none of them have such connections.

It is my opinion that the hint given has been cleverly chosen to give the least amount of info away about the cipher type. The creator of Kryptos is quite experienced in such matters and will know exactly when too much is given away.

Enigma ciphers can easily be "decrypted" by pencil and paper methods, but to "break" one using only pencil and paper would take many many years (possibly more years than you will be alive for).

Re: Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: Veselovský on Sept. 20, 2011, 9:44 p.m.

But Sanborn also said that it is crucial to have the first three sections correct, because they contain the clues to the last section.
So for example it could be that first three section tell you what rotors where used and what was their positions and in that case it would be possible to do it by pencil and paper.

I do not say that it must be like this. It is just my first idea.

P.S.: Does anybody know what the source of the question mark at the beginning of ciphertext is?

Re: Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: DarkFibre on Sept. 21, 2011, 6:07 a.m.

There is argument over the question marks, but the Berlin hint seems to indicate the last section is 97 characters with no punctuation.

As for the cipher, I interpreted the hints that two ciphers were used: one to "mask" the statistics of English and another to encrypt it. But others think this means a cipher was used that hides the statistics much more than the other ciphers, like a fractionated substitution cipher.

Re: Challenge "Kryptos"  

  By: fretty on Sept. 21, 2011, 10:01 a.m.

It is roughly an unspoken rule:

Pencil and Paper -> nothing past or including Enigma

The way I see it is that the previous plaintexts were made for a purpose, Sanborn is communicating some kind of higher message to people. His purpose for the first three plaintexts is not just to give away Enigma settings, he is the master of sculpture…if he wanted to he could hide them a better way.

Also, Enigma is quite messy when you jump into the question of "Which Enigma machine are you using?" since throughout the war there were many different types of machine, each with different numbers of rotors/reflectors available, different numbers of rotors to be put into the machine and even different wirings of of the rotors too.

The challenges on this site were contrived in the fact that we were told which machine to use and quite a lot of extra information.

Theoretically, if we ignore the actual machines that were made, the Enigma has a massive keyspace…because then the rotors can each have any permutation of the alphabet wired up.

Re: Challenge  

  By: Miles on Feb. 27, 2020, 8:35 p.m.

In january Mr. Sanborn published a new „last” clue: NORTHEAST at positions 26 through 34 (QQPRNGKSS).
The other two already known clues are BERLIN at positions 64 through 69 (NYPVTT) and CLOCK in the next five positions, 70 through 74 (MZFPK).

( ... -clue.html)

Re: Challenge  

  By: be on March 3, 2020, 10 p.m.

In january Mr. Sanborn published a new „last” clue: NORTHEAST at positions 26 through 34 (QQPRNGKSS).
The other two already known clues are BERLIN at positions 64 through 69 (NYPVTT) and CLOCK in the next five positions, 70 through 74 (MZFPK).


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