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 Forum index » Archive » Archive: Perplex City » PXC: Project Syzygy Pre-Game
Project Syzygy
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AnthraX101
Entrenched

Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 797

Partial solve:

Spoiler (Rollover to View):
They are md5 hashes.

fbde76347aa5b0251377256ad20e5a93 = ?
7d0db380a5b95a8ba1da0bca241abda1 = at
d4805c5f8a2576cc4543250b30c324d0 = projectsyzygy.com

Probably an email address. Still working on busting the first one.


AnthraX101
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:29 pm
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Varin
I Have No Life


Joined: 02 Dec 2002
Posts: 2456
Location: South of where I used to be

Spoiler (Rollover to View):
some info on md5 hashes... http://pajhome.org.uk/crypt/md5/

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:57 pm
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AnthraX101
Entrenched

Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 797

And grumpyboy comes in with the solve:

Spoiler (Rollover to View):
dinahSPLATprojectsyzygy.com


Auto-response (not edited in any way):

Spoiler (Rollover to View):
On 5 Mar 2004, at 00:29, xxxx wrote:

I don't think I have anything more to add, except for the requisite
shout-outs to the immersive fiction community all over the web and
around the world (you know who you are). Anyone reading this should know
that it's going to get a lot harder and a lot more fun. You ain't seen
nothing yet.

One last thing - it all begins with AADAA...

xxxx



On 5 Mar 2004, at 00:13, xxxx wrote:

What a cool idea. I love it. All we'd need to do is sanitise our
email exchange by removing reference to things like xxxx and then put it
online somewhere. This could be the last email of our exchange we
publish.

Unless of course you follow this one with a witty reply that our
hard-core cryptographer friends would enjoy ;)

xxxx



On 4 Mar 2004, at 23:58, xxxx wrote:

Actually, yeah, I think you are probably right. As long as the puzzle
isn't *ridiculously* easy, then people aren't going to think worse of
it (especially if you put 'Easy wasn't it?' as a more difficult one!).
Simple substitution is a nice way to go.

Now I'm wondering what sort of code to use for the 'easy wasn't it'
thing...

It occurred to me this evening that a nice reward for ultra-hardcore
cryptographers would be to see this exchange of emails - it wouldn't
actually reveal anything at all about xxxx, and they'd probably
appreciate the thought that's gone into the ad puzzle. Perhaps we could
encrypt a key in the ad that would unlock these emails on the web
somewhere. Or maybe not. Just another random idea

xxxx



On 4 Mar 2004, at 23:48, xxxx wrote:

Fair point. I've been thinking about this a lot this evening. It's a
tricky balance we're trying to strike.

The code at the moment is laughably easy to crack but that's the
point. I think 99% of people reading the ad will feel pretty pleased with
themselves for cracking a Caesar shift or simple substitution cipher.
The image I have is of people stumbling across our ad while flicking
through a stack of job ads in a coffee shop. They'll be intrigued by
it but unless they have a hook to start solving it quickly I think
they'll give up and probably won't give it another thought.

Alternatively if they immediately see a way in and manage to solve it
on the back of a napkin within five or ten minutes then I think they'd
be very likely to check out the site and more importantly mention it
to other people.

In hindsight a simple substitution cipher probably makes more sense
than a Caesar shift Ė particularly if we leave the web address format
as it is. This provides the easy way in to give the average person a
foothold of four letters.

Itíll be a different matter when the game is live and people are xxxx
but in this instance I think a Vigenere cipher would require too much
effort for the average person. Obviously we wouldn't want to recruit
anyone for the full-time team who'd struggle to decode a Vigenere
cipher but this is a great opportunity to get a lot of people chatting
about the concept and the site itself. If the puzzle is too complex then
we lose all that and the fact we gain an average of higher quality
submissions probably doesn't offset it.

You're right in that we don't want to look like lightweight puzzle
designers so a way around this might be to hide a much more complex
code in the background that acknowledges the very important but tiny
minority of ultra smart folks. Perhaps something as simple as "Easy wasn't
it?"

Any thoughts??

Cheers

xxxx




On 4 Mar 2004, at 18:38, xxxx wrote:

Hi all,

I think the text of the ad is perfect, but I have some comments on
other aspects.

Firstly, I think a Caesar shift is too easy - I mean, even I could
figure that one out! If people are interested in the ad, then they'll
be willing to put at least a few minutes work into it - and if they're
not interested in the ad, it won't be because the cryptosystem is too
hard, it'll be because it just looks like gibberish. So I don't feel
there's anything wrong with knocking it up a notch and using, say, a
simple substitution cipher. These are easily broken using frequency
analysis or brute force, but it's a step up from Caesar.

Another possibility is using a Vigenere Cipher, which is essentially a
Caesar cipher done twice, using a keyword to determine the shift. It's
much more difficult to brute force without the keyword and very very
difficult for short texts, which obviously this one is, so we should
make the keyword available. A possible scenario would be to encode the
majority of the text in a Vigenere Cipher (which is immune to
frequency analysis) and encode the keyword (written in Braille or morse code
or baudot) with a simple substitution cipher or something similar.

Whichever system is used, it would be a mistake to write out the web
address in the usual 'http://www....com' format, simply because it'd
be very recognisable and thus provide an easy shortcut to crack the
puzzle (and that would be no fun for anyone). To be totally safe, I
would write it out as 'visit projectsyzygy dot com' so there isn't any
strange punctuation to give the game away.

So - if you went for the Vigenere route, here is how I would do it
(and obviously there are many other ways, many of which are undoubtedly
better):

1. In a corner or on the border of the ad, the phrase 'You're always
a day away' is written in morse or braille or baudot. Optionally, it
is encoded via a simple substitution cipher, or maybe just a Caesar
shift.

2. This phrase is obviously from the song 'Tomorrow' in the movie
'Annie'. Thus the keyword is 'Tomorrow' - it's not hard to figure out.

3. From there, if you recognise that the main text is encoded in
Vigenere, it is trivial to decode it using the keyword.

You could always highlight some of the letters in the text and use
them as a keyword for a future puzzle on the web - we wouldn't even
need to decide on them beforehand, we could just design the future
puzzle around them.

My reasoning for making the puzzle a bit harder and more circuituous
is because it involves the 'player' a little more and thus will give
them a bit more satisfaction on completion and also convince them
that we are not lightweights when it comes to cryptography. Furthermore,
if anyone did want to write a story about it, it's more interesting
this way

Of course, it is entirely possible that making the puzzle harder will
put people off, which is clearly not the goal. However, it will be
cracked by *someone* in short order, and the answer and instructions
will then be put on the web for all to see. Success!


xxxx


On 4 Mar 2004, at 16:32, xxxx wrote:

Here's a first stab at text for the ad that will be going into the
press over next week or so. I'm planning to put it into Marketing Week and
then play it by ear after that.

If anyone has any suggestions or improvements then give me a shout asap
since we're hoping to get this finished by midday on Monday. Might be
nice to hide a deeper clue in there somewhere as well. Any
suggestions? Perhaps we could very subtly highlight some of the letters (tiny
dot above or below) to spell out a new message. Or we could partially
hide the 'I can see you' Braille text somewhere within the design
around the edge of the text? Not very imaginative though!

I currently think that the best plan would be for the first sentence
to be unencrypted to hook people's interest and then encode the rest
of the text via a caesar shift (including the web address obviously!)
With a bit of luck it should get picked up and commented on by the
mainstream press.

Cheers

xxxx


And just one note: AADAA was the begining string to the "Arethusa" messages from Cryptonomicon. In the context of the book, it was one of those super hard codes that no one could crack. Finally, years later, one guy cracks it. It turns out not to be a message at all, rather the output of a Riemann zeta function using "COMSTOCK" as the seed

AnthraX101
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 1:58 pm
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se3_uk
Kilroy

Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Posts: 2
Location: London, UK

Just to elaborate a little on AnthraX101's Cryptonomicon comments - Comstock was the name of the guy leading the search to crack the code. The code was encyrpted using his name as the seed as a practical joke (kind of).

Anyway - I'm impressed at everyone's speedy work cracking the Marketing Week stuff. I'm kicking myself for not figuring out the ROT but I wouldn't have had a hope of deciphering the text under the ad.

I'm also pretty impressed by the foresight of the guys running Syzygy. The email AnthraX101 found mentions picking up coverage in the mainstream press by planting an easy code - and lo, I work for the mainstream press (www.telegraph.co.uk - the website of a UK national newspaper) and I'm now keen to write an article about ARGs. I guess that's why they call them puppetmasters.

I've sent an email to the sente address to try and get an interview with the PS team but I'd also like to interview a couple of people from here if anyone is interested. The interviews would be conducted over email and you could be referred to by your online login if you prefer (though I would like to know your realworld age, location and occupation).

Specifically I'd like to speak to:
1. Someone with an involvement in more than one previous ARG.
2. Someone new to ARGs who discovered them via the Guardian ad yesterday.
3. Anyone on the PS team, if you haven't yet seen my email to sente.

Please contact me via PM through this site if you're interested. I don't intend to file the article until next month but I'll post the URL here when it's published.

Many thanks.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 2:51 pm
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Giskard
Sassypants


Joined: 07 Oct 2003
Posts: 2066
Location: Chicago

Nice work guys!

I'm a bit confused at the md5 stuff and the link Varin provided to explain them. As they are not coded with the use of some kind of keyword, how are they ever meant to be used to encode a message? Or isn't that what the md4/md5 method is usually used for?

Also, for the sake of completeness (esp. for the people not following the IRC discussion), in this thread I still miss the suggestion to solving the 2oc4o puzzle that Spacebass did a few days ago:

Spoiler (Rollover to View):
He suggested that perhaps 2oc4o was a TinyURL redirection url, and on trying it, it redirects to http://www.cs.utsa.edu/~wagner/laws/Abeale.html, a site about the Beale cypher, featuring the same text that later appeared in the Alison.rtf file. As it didn't seem particularly relevant, it was dismissed, and afaik, noone found out how exactly the Marketing Week reference was to be derived from that.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:37 pm
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Wishi-san
Guest


md5 is a one way hash. There's no keyword on no way of decrypting the message as such. The only real way to do it is by brute forcing.

It's often used for passwords and the like as you can compare the hashed value with someone's supplied password by just hashing what they supply. This forum uses md5 to store its passwords in the database so they're not in plaintext.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:44 pm
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BrianEnigma
Entrenched


Joined: 05 Oct 2003
Posts: 1199
Location: Pacific Northwest

Giskard wrote:
As they are not coded with the use of some kind of keyword, how are they ever meant to be used to encode a message? Or isn't that what the md4/md5 method is usually used for?

You are correct on that second statement/question. MD5, MD4, SHA1, and a bunch of other algorithms are designed to take data of any length and distill it into a fairly unique value. It is often used as a sort of digital signature. You could write up a contract on the computer ("I give you $200 when you pass Go!"), then calculate the MD5. Later, if there is any dispute (like I change the document to say "You give me all your money"), the MD5 hashes do not match up. (It is actually a lot more complex than that...but the example shows the basics of cryptographic nonrepudiation.)

Generally, it is not used for encrypting unknown data (with the exception that often passwords are stored as MD5 hashes). This is because it is a "lossy" one-way hash. Your original message gets lost when calculating the MD5--that is, you can't get the original from the MD5 hash without a lot of brute force guessing, which can take a very, very long time depending on how long the original text was.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:47 pm
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Giskard
Sassypants


Joined: 07 Oct 2003
Posts: 2066
Location: Chicago

Thanks Wishi & Brian... I tend to be slow at things sometimes Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:51 pm
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Semioclast
Boot

Joined: 30 Oct 2003
Posts: 68

See what happens when I try to leave the house!!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:53 pm
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Semioclast
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Re: New to all this...

stuckindublin wrote:
Then there is the Logo. Is this for Consumer Recreational Services - i remember them having very cool simplistic stationary in The Game, but can't remember anything else. Anyone got a copy on DVD to check that out. There's also a value missing from the series next to the Da Vinci code ( a 2 in the series). Also not sure why there is FFF next to Pattern Recognition - this should be the source - william gibson - or something specific (as masquerade was about chasing a hare- the rest are sources directors or characters). Being the only Gibson book I haven't read I wonder if it is a reference to a character I don't understand?


"F:F:F" is the name of the forum which Cayce uses to communicate about the "footage."

Kind of like things are here.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:02 pm
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yanka|not logged
Guest


I wonder if Dinah is a PM's real name, or an easter-egg type thing. Dinah was the name of Alice's cat (and the hex strings were flipped in the ad, so you had to read them in a mirror - which is what Alice had to do with "Jabberwocky")

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:14 pm
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Giskard
Sassypants


Joined: 07 Oct 2003
Posts: 2066
Location: Chicago

Re: New to all this...

stuckindublin wrote:
Then there is the Logo. Is this for Consumer Recreational Services - i remember them having very cool simplistic stationary in The Game, but can't remember anything else. Anyone got a copy on DVD to check that out.


Because I was curious Wink :

CRS used a version of the Penrose triangle (often drawn by Escher), shown here in a very bad (ahem Embarassed ) screencap:


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:19 pm
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BrianEnigma
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Response Email

It could be nothing, but someone in chat brought up the fact that spaces between words are a little funky in the email. You may not notice it in HTML, as browsers tend to coalesce multiple spaces to a single space, but in the original email text, a good number of words have two or three spaces between them, when they should only have one.

My gut reaction is that this is an artifact of someone taking text that was originally line-break'ed and formatted for 80 columns, who converted it to remove the line breaks, making flowing paragraphs that will fit any width mail window. After all, most of the odd spaces are at multiples of around 70-80 characters, and most word wrapping tries to keep lines under 72 or 75 characters.

On the other hand, I would really hate for this to be the end, and be forced to patiently wait until Q4...and it *is* possible to steg data into ASCII whitespace.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:21 pm
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Semioclast
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Joined: 30 Oct 2003
Posts: 68

The music on the popup has a voice at the end which sounds strikingly similar to the overhead announcer at London's Heathrow Airport.

http://humor.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.twilight3d.com/humour/temp/

Here is an old humor thing where they played with that. It illustrates my meaning.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 4:27 pm
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smoooth
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Joined: 15 Mar 2004
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the voice at the end of the music.

i checked the information on the luggage tab on the second page of the main site. The tag gives flight numbers and 2 cities that we can see. first is "LH?" which when looking up that flight (SQ0318) on Singaporeair is a flight from Singapore to London Heathrow. the second part is the flight number under "SIN" SQ0218 is a flight that originates in Melbourne and I would think that is the from city that we cannot see. let me know what you all think and if this ties into the fact that someone has tentatively identified the voice at the end of the music on the site as what sounds like the voice over the PA at London Heathrow Airport.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:12 pm
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