[ARG] The Pizza Code Mystery


#5521

intentional, but so old now, it expired. Got to remember on top of making Xen, we all have other stuff going on as well, so what with phone numbers costing etc and the arg being spare time work for nothing, sometimes we can’t continue on things. Solution won’t vanish with Xen, but the scope may be reduced, however even when concluded - it may not be over.


#5522

That’s very good to hear.

Also, as I was piecing some of the old information together, I came across one of the posts on your Steam profile–you responded to a question, and part of that response was: "There will indeed be a conclusion to the ARG, when people have moved beyond the current gateway puzzle, but it might be a while before you get to it. :wink: "

That was back in January of 2013–now almost six years ago. That’s crazy, man. Crazy.

That moment when we finally do solve it (and I feel it in my bones that we will)–God, that’s gonna feel sooooo good.


#5523

The ARG will conclude with the launch of xen is what was said, so I asked for clarification.


#5524

I’d like to see your report as you are going over things instead of at your conclusion. I’d love to see what you find as you’re doing it so I can make sure that I didn’t overlook anything in my own notes.

What do you mean when you say “the scope may be reduced”?


#5525

I would be happy to! I’ll figure out a good way to sort everything out and present it–either as a numbered post or maybe visually somehow. However I do it, I’ll make sure I respond on here.

EDIT: You may have already located this previously, but I sort of did this back in the day–there has been more since then, however: http://thepizzaisalie.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_and_Concept_Map

Sorry for that hot garbage of a Concept Map–I’m not sure what I was thinking when I made it, but it made sense at the time.

Anyway, I’ll get back to you!

EDIT: I’ve gone very far down into the rabbit hole, and I was basically just pulling anything and everything I could. A couple of things I noticed:

This post - It’s very strange that the user only posts once, and they bring to light a post about the stardates in Star Trek, which look very, VERY similar to the extension on our whiteboards.

That led me to this whiteboard, which we’ve examined countless times: http://thepizzaisalie.wikia.com/wiki/File:C2a4x_labboard15.jpg

I feel like that board has the answer–Storm literally just said that our answer is “visible.” Remember the “seek code out” message as well? Maybe it wasn’t about the person, but about the word–this whiteboard has it in black and white (and red)!

I’m not the best with finding tools to decrypt, but I’ll do my best with what we have available online. I would stress that we start with the whiteboards that have “DO NOT WIPE BOARD!” on them–there are 3:

  1. The one with Code D (solved)
  2. The one with the “Accelerated Lepton Optronic Linearity Cannon” on it–this has been referenced multiple times as well throughout the ARG
  3. The one with the mention of leptonic decay (a reference back to the cannon)

I’m wondering if we’ve had everything we needed from day one, and everything Storm has provided us since then has literally been him screaming at his screen “GO BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE BEFORE!” If you look at a lot of the clues we’ve been given, they may even direct us right back to this board, such as the image on the Tempus page–it literally says on the board: “Anthony, please stop stealing my pizzas!” And then you look at the underlines in the image, and the underlined “Anthony” on the board, and the reference to “STEALS IT. EATS IT.” And then the IRC clue #5 that literally has the words MIX CASCADE in it, possibly literally directing us to that whiteboard and cascade ciphers. It just . . . makes sense.

I mean, I could be completely wrong here, but come on–with any other solution, we would just be guessing and checking. There’s no direction in that, no sense of confidence. At least with this we have stable parameters that we can work within. Maybe it was a simple as what I mentioned back in November of 2012–maybe it is cascading ciphers.

If anyone has any reliable sources for decryption, I would really appreciate a link. I’m going to do my best with what’s online.

I really can’t think of anything else at this point–we have discussed this time and time again, sure, but Storm did say we were close back on May 22 of 2013. There were only a few key ideas on the table at that point, and some of the other information we’ve had since then makes sense. The whole “the CIA couldn’t brute force it” bit seems to imply heavily that it’s either one very complex cipher, or perhaps two other ciphers that, together, would be impossible to crack without the key(s). Furthermore, that would explain the random-looking data in the Hex file, as two encryptions could produce entropy like that.

Anyhow, I really think this is where we should focus our efforts–or at least where I’m going to focus mine. Everything else, all these years–I think it was just noise. I really think that whole “staring me in the face” feeling all those years may have been this simple fact: We had it in front of us, we just didn’t use it–or at least didn’t use it with enough confidence, thus quickly moving onto something else.


#5526

Incidentally, that post mentions the number 47, which is interesting, given the fact that the hex code in binary form can be grouped into 376 bytes, and the number 376 can be factored into 22247, or 847. When you look at 8*47, it looks strangely familiar:

You can’t really compare the expression 8*47 with the time of day 8:47, so this is pure numerology. But if it is a hint, it could be a hint that further strengthens the 64-bit block cipher theory. But then again, it could be a complete coincidence.

EDIT:

I agree that a lot of things seem to be pointing to this board. The three ciphers mentioned on the board are also the three possible ciphers of interest suggested by 0418_08151814. The problem, again, is the block size mismatch. Another HUGE problem is the question whether or not the BENALOHPAILLIER password is part of this puzzle, or if it was meant to be used at a later stage (for logging in somewhere). On at least two occasions, stormseeker has referred to this puzzle as “HALOS file”, and the solution to IRC clue 5 literally says that the password to the HALOS files is BENALOHPAILLIER. But then the text in the metadata of qecode.ogg says that it’s the password to HALOS’ area, which to me sounds like it’s the password for accessing some kind of file share. The whole puzzle seems to be littered with these contradictions—for every piece of information, there’s another that contradicts it.

If BENALOHPAILLIER is indeed the key, then one would think it would be contradicted by “the CIA couldn’t brute force it” quote, unless we are indeed dealing with a complex cascade cipher, or the password string needs to be processed somehow, like for example being run through a hash algorithm. 0418_08151814 talks about rainbow tables, and that might suggest the use of MD5.


#5527

Payday 2’s ARG figured out

After five years, players have reached Payday 2’s secret ending[/size]
[/size]


#5528

Let’s not forget that the sum of the 4 original clues, which was also the password for the first site (Stormseeker’s site), is also 47.

1001085139140914 = 47

We should take this to heart, and also see if maybe there’s some other way this number can be used.

EDIT: I’m thinking that number is likely important in other ways, too, because not only does it add up to 47, but it’s also 128 bits (AES, anyone?)


#5529

47[/size]
The 752 Halos code fits into a 16x47 grid. Assuming the Header Row consists of hex numbers what could the 47 Down Row consist of?


#5530

Something I noticed on the Tempus page in this chunk:

"FURTHER ANALYSIS…

TRANSMISSION SOURCE TRIANGULATION NOT POSSIBLE.<|>


95Nb 41 54 94.9068358(21) 34.991(6) d β- 95Mo 9/2+ "

That “<|>” part–is that in relation to Haskell’s <|> operator, in the sense that we get a choice of one or the other? Would this be why there’s a cutoff point right after it? In essence, we have a choice between the top portion or the bottom portion?

I’m not sure why this would be important, and for all I know it’s just a random symbol thrown in there for aesthetic appeal, but I wonder if we’re only supposed to use some of the information on that page, and maybe the rest of it is just fluff/garbage.

Anyway, just a thought.

EDIT: So, we know 47 is important–or at least, feel strongly it is.

The other thing I’ve thought a lot about is the fact that we haven’t followed all the clues. What I mean by this, is that we haven’t gone down every path open to us–at least, not completely. If you look at the first “gate” puzzle, we were given four clues–the final one of which opened up the next part of the ARG.

Code A tells us that we’ve entered the ARG, and provides the website for the password to be inputted.

Code B we are led to directly with the message “Dr Horn - your pizza is ready for collection from the staff canteen”–solving that gives us another part of the password.

Code C was randomly found, but it gave us a hint as to how to solve Code D.

Code D was the final piece needed.

Now, if we look at these puzzles the same way, we can interpret exactly what it is that we need–in essence, we should follow each to all of its possible conclusions. What I’m referring mostly to is this whole “Prime site/SITE/HALOS area” spiel–do we even know what this is? We’ve been given the bmrf.us website, and one clue directs us right to it, but it seems like a dead-end because we can’t find anything else on that site, and terminal page is static (can’t interact with it, as far as we know). So, either there’s another page hiding on that website, or we are completely missing a whole site. At least with Storm’s website, we knew where to put the final answer. Here, we don’t have that.

So then the question becomes–if the site isn’t where the final answer goes, then is it simply another lead to take us to the right answer, and thus the solution to the puzzle? In other words, if that site isn’t the final answer, then it must just be a piece of the puzzle. I’m sure we’ve all spent some time looking at the websites we know of, but is it possible we missed something somewhere?

I don’t think the whole phone number thing was supposed to actually want us to enter a password, but was instead a heads-up like “Hey! You need to find somewhere to enter a password!”

Honestly, the website could be named anything, and if it’s meant to be hidden, there likely won’t be anything related to pizzas or mystery or so forth on it. We may have to get clever with our searches. But if we can find something that looks like it’s related to the ARG, maybe that’s it. The other thing we can work on is perhaps trying to piece together what exactly “HALOS” stands for. Is it as simple as a type of operating system, or is the name itself a clue on how to solve it?

Also, @Flavrans–the BMRF.us information on the Wiki says as follows:

"May 1, 2015: The site now is a distorted video feed and has three glitching numbers in the middle, apparently, going Days, Hours, Minutes, counting down to 5 May 2015 08:47:00 UTC -6:00 as stated in source code of the page."

There’s that time again–very strange that it’s come up so many times–I know it’s part of the canon, but it also fits in with our HALOS code. God, this is literally driving me nuts!


#5531

I dont think so. After all, when you connected to ext. 12 it literally asked you for password (“Please enter your password followed by pound key”).

I dont know though, maybe I just want to get something right so I ignore rest of it :confused:


#5532

That is true–perhaps there was some inner clue that would have given us something related to the larger puzzle.

Also, can I just play Devil’s advocate here for a second? I think I’ve earned that right after six years. So, yes, we’ve been reaffirmed by Storm directly that there is a solution to this, but I’m starting to wonder . . . the whole “the cake is a lie” thing was based on the fact that in the end of Portal, the cake was just a way to get you from point A to point B, and there were scribbles of “the cake is a lie” all over the wall.

This begs a few key questions:

  1. Who is actually writing this? If we assume that the ARG is related to the Portal situation, then someone has to be writing these messages, right? But who would actually be writing them, and in blood? Is someone mortally wounded (or at least wounded enough to provide enough blood to write the messages) and trying to warn others about the fact that the entire puzzle is a fake, that it’s just there to either confuse or perhaps to hide a more cleverly-disguised purpose? In the story of the ARG, who do we know was mortally wounded? The only one I’m sure of was Paul Bottomley–is he the one trying to warn us?

  2. If “the pizza is a lie” just like “the cake is a lie,” then perhaps the whole phrase is a hint about the greater purpose of the ARG. Didn’t Storm say something to the extent of “It’s everywhere you look?”

From the urban dictionary for “the cake is a lie:”

"Implies that a promised reward for one’s work is false, with the one proffering the reward never intending to give it in the first place, possibly because the reward never even existed (see also: “there is no spoon”). This phrase can be used to express grief or frustration regarding any situation where there is an imbalance between effort and reward. This phrase was popularized by the game “Portal” by Valve Software Corporation. "

It could just be a tongue-in-cheek way of Storm assuming we were going to have a lot of trouble with this, and the “small reward” may not be worth it, or it could just be a reference to the Portal game. I’m more inclined to go with the former, that he knew this was going to be hard, and that some may not find the reward to be “worth it.” In my eyes, however, a printed certificate would suffice, just as long as we find the actual answer!

  1. There’s another part to that urban dictionary entry:

“During the game, GlaDOS, an artificially intelligent operating system and the game’s passive-aggressive guide, uses the reward of cake as a motivating factor in an attempt to manipulate the player. It is first mentioned during the “impossible puzzle room”, where she urges the player to “quit now and cake will be served immediately”. In a later stage, the player can access a “hidden” area of the testing chamber to find a previous test participant had scrawledThe cake is a lie!” among other warning messages. Cake continues to remain the promised reward for completing the test and/or obeying GlaDOS, particularly in the final stages of the game. Finally, in the ending song, GlaDOS cheerfully sings about how “there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying 'till you run out of cake.””

And this is the kicker–what if we aren’t the intended audience of these messages? I’m starting to think that someone either came before us, or that perhaps HALOS was already used for dastardly deeds, and we are simply the clean-up crew or the fools that stumbled upon it by happenstance. Who do we know in the story of the ARG who would write bloody messages claiming “the pizza is a lie,” and, furthermore, why would pizza be offered as a reward? If HALOS, like GlaDOS, was trying to use someone with pizza as the motivating factor, there would be two follow-up questions–1. Was pizza the actual reward offered for following HALOS’s direction, or was there more to “the pizza?”, and 2. What did HALOS want from this person?

Even though we’ve come to know Dr. Horn as the villain, what if there is far more to the story? Is Paul Bottomley the only victim of all this? Is he the one that wrote the messages? If you think about it, the messages are usually hidden, too. Perhaps someone went around and cleaned up after it was all said and done.

Anyhow, I’m not sure if this is helpful at all, but it’s just something that struck me as odd.


#5533

Just curious, but, earlier in the ARG, a set of coordinates pointed to a Pizza joint, It may have been Domino’s I Think, but do we have ANYONE here on the forums that lives in that area of the U.S.???


#5534

Well, we know that the ASCII representation of 1001085139140914 is not the key for 128-bit AES in ECB mode. I know I’ve tried that. If the number is involved, it must have been used in some other way.

Usually, you would arrange a plaintext or ciphertext in a grid like that in order to do a columnar transposition. For that you’ll only need a key in the top row, which will determine the order in which the columns will be transposed. But I don’t think this can be solved with transpositions alone. Transpositions won’t change the ratio of 0s to 1s in the code, which is 1566 (52.1%) to 1442 (47.9%). An ASCII text will typically have an ever so slightly higher ratio of 0s to 1s than what we see in the code.

From what I understand, it could also mean two functions that run in parallel, and you use the result from the first one that succeeds. But I’m not sure how that would make sense from what’s on the page.

In any case, I’m not sure I would call any of it fluff or garbage. I think a lot of what’s there is there to help us make sense of the story, or write it even. But somewhere on the page, there must be a clue or hint that is directly related to the puzzle.

In the first part of the ARG, we got this login credential for logging in at stormseeker’s (or Dr. Horn’s) site:

Username: drhorn
Password: 1001085139140914

The question is, was this the prime site?

Then the solution to IRC clue 4 said that the prime site was compromised and the recipient of the message was told to return to BMRF (bmrf.us ?) and login with username HALOS (as I interpret it). But now the big question is whether we already have the password for that login (BENALOHPAILLIER), but the login site hasn’t unlocked yet because we haven’t solved the gateway puzzle. Don’t forget the mysterious comment on the BMRF.us wiki page that said “This unlocks at the start of the end.”

It’s clear that time, in some way or another, must somehow factor into the solving of this puzzle. From Tempus omnia revelant to stormseeker repeatedly stating that “time will reveal all”. Let’s recall what stormseeker said the other day. He basically said that the ARG will conclude with the release of Xen, but the secrets hidden within this puzzle may never be known. This means that time, after everything is said and done, does not reveal all things, at least not in the way we thought it would. The only thing we can conclude from this is that “time reveals all” must be directly related to the solving of the current puzzle.

Maybe the “8:47” thing is one of several time-related aspects built into the puzzle. If we combine it with what 0418_08151814 said: “For the moment therefore, I will continue to try and analyze the non Hex code and work out the block size, algorithm basis, key length etc.”, then maybe the 8:47 is a hint that we should look at the code as 47 8-byte blocks, or 47 64-bit blocks, and that is the block size we are looking for, which narrows down the group of ciphers that we should look at.

But then there’s also something about the way stormseeker phrased it on one occation: “Time will still reveal all… eventually.”

To me, this looks like he is trying to emphasize the passage of time, that the answer will only present itself after some indefinite time has passed. What does that mean in terms of solving the puzzle? Does it mean this can only be solved by running a program that has to run for some time, until it finally finds the solution. This could also be what the “seek code out” means.

There’s also one other thing that may support this idea: the “Awesumz” text on Dr. Sezen’s monitor:

// I heard Dr Horn was on the rampage again. I have an awesum idea, I shall yous my lee7
// programming skillz to send him a batch file wat crashes his computer for like 10 mins.
// That will teach him to keep
// telling me to fix things. Stupid level designers overusing the entities in maps, its not like us coders
// dont warn them about the possible repercussions of overusing things like ambient generics
// how were we supposed to know they would lower the limits in the new sdk base...
// I found another of those odd pizza messages again today, i have a feeling its related to whats
// on the board over yonder, im new though, so maybe its something on going. Going to watch Star
// Trek tonight, s04e03 i think. Should give me some ideas for Code.
@Echo off:crash
start
goto crash

We know that this is stormseeker having fun with one of the programmers (he commented on it in another thread), but what if he also baked into it one or more hints for the ARG?

Again, we see a time-related element, the programmer is going to crash Dr. Horn’s computer for some 10 minutes, apparently by running the following .bat file:

@Echo off
:crash
start
goto crash

This .bat file might potentially run forever unless someone or something breaks the loop.

I can’t help but wonder if the idea of a loop is crucial.


#5535

Don’t forget the beep sequence that could sometimes be heard at the beginning of the audio on the answering machine. It’s possible it was some kind of code that was meant to be solved. I tried, but I just couldn’t make any sense of it.


#5536

Now you got me thinking, Flavrans–could “seek code out” mean seeking the code out in the hints we’ve been given? In other words, maybe we can pick out common operators (like the <|>) and see if we can get anything to run from it, or perhaps fill in the blanks if the variables are missing. Even if they are, with the operators, we may be able to piece it together. I will work on this today, and see if I can pull anything together. I’ve only programmed in a few languages in my day, so it can’t hurt if multiple folks want to give this a go. I don’t imagine it will take that long to do so.

Apart from the other reasons we mentioned about the 64-bit block size, don’t forget that literally every single IRC clue started with a conversion from base 64:

  • IRC clue 1 - base64
  • IRC clue 2 - base64, Contains 2 longitude/latitude combinations
  • IRC clue 3 - base64, Another location clue
  • IRC clue 4 - base64, Navajo Code, Playfair
  • IRC clue 5 - base64, Running Key
  • IRC clue 6 - base64, ASCII85, Points to HALOS.txt
    That can’t just be a coincidence, because what would be the point? After the first one or two, we knew exactly what it was and how to decode it. So it’s either in there for the purposes of being consistent or because it’s important to the ARG. Personally, I think it’s a hint.

#5537

Something that has been bugging me the last couple of days. The time line of the ARG and the time line of the game. If the BLACK MESA RES CASCADE happened prior to 2010, and we are receiving transmissions in 2012 via irc, how would that be possible in the spirit of the ARG? Are we to assume the messages recieved in 2012, have anything to do with the timeline in game? What if the ARG is supposed to be
taking place well after the events of the game? If so, how would this change things? Anyone live in NM? Anyone live in MD? Have we considered the possibility that someone may have to actually go to one of the grid coordinates and dig something up? Or possibly find a geocache like box of goodies? Looking on the wiki, I think I may have missed it, but where does the the dominos pizza grid come from? Some of the math on those grids dont quite add up.


#5538

I suppose that we haven’t really gone anywhere up to this point–there are some ARGs where you actually have to go to places to find clues.

I will be very limited in that regard, as I’m broke as a joke, but it could be possible. I always assumed this would be web-based, but do we have any confirmation from Storm that there aren’t physical parts to the ARG? I figured the phone number was about the extent, but we don’t really know that, do we? Also, if you take the letters in the first IRC clue that replace the “#” and “-” symbols (at least the ones that are known from the words–there are some other # symbols that seem random) you get: NCONANSSIKNOOROUNSH

If you rearrange those, you can get: UNISON SNACK SOON HORN

In other words, let’s have lunch soon, Dr. Horn, and talk about all this “misbegotten goods” business.

If only, haha. In all honesty, though, I’m convinced of this block cipher business. I thought maybe the message from Storm when he was posing as 0418 was a red herring, because it was so direct, but maybe it is 100% legitimate in trying to help us. I think we should fully take it to heart, and use it as our basis moving forward. I mean, he did put a lot of information into that message, and took the time to write it all out. Afterall, he was the one that originally pointed me to the whole SECOM thing.

In case you want it for easy reference, here is the whole message again:

Apologies for the time delay, things have been hell here for the last month or so.

I ran the code through a few programs that analyze entropy via auto-correlation, the n gram results indicate a weak encryption, but one that results in highly entropic data (which I correlated against a similar data set size from a randomness extractor) when decoded via Hex, which I suspect is a secondary encode, as most encrypted data sent via communications is encoded in order to avoid corruption. This may have skewed the block size analysis done previously (resulting in 376bytes or 64bits).

Source Code[/size]

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  4. @eF²Lšb›&Â?Î*KäXš7_ësÄ«"\„Œøž)²q3—6G?J‰(í֏TiŒ^[PgFövZo%Þ¤Ú@þ¶e?E$i6•ˆ=Ë!æûþû¸Z)‘”€6¥+]

Thinking in a non linear way, I’ve tried to classify the OTR message header with its increasing scale as the puzzles moved on.

[CLASSIFIED INFORMATION LEVEL 8][OTR//4.0]

working from that basis and the other messages I have developed this list.

Level 0 - 2 = Non Encrypted or Encoded (similar to private and confidential?)
Level 3 - 4 = OTR 1 - Base 64 or Base 85 encoded
Level 5 - 6 = OTR 2 - Hyper-encrypted (layered) Pen and Paper Ciphers
Level 7 = OTR 3 - Hyper-encrypted (layered) One Time Pad
Level 8 = OTR 4 - ???
Level 9 - ?? = OTR 5 - ???

Considering a flawed OTP (which it was, considering the ability to analyze it), when done properly should be information-theoretically secure, the next level should be either hyper-encryption using random bits (which is unlikely considering the difficulty in making that crackable and for the fact it’s usually used on hardware encryption chips), or some form of Block Cipher (from which if we assume the scale of Levels goes up to 10), can be extended into simple block ciphers with small block size, which analysis seems to indicate it is not, up to triple cascaded ciphers with high block sizes, salts and perhaps even key files to add additional strength.

It is just an assumption, but one using the available evidence, OTR 4.0 is either a 128bit or 256bit block cipher with an unknown mode and key length. I would assume AES or Rjindael as candidates to allow for the most commonly used (also as Off the Record encryption uses AES as its base algorithm, that may be a hint). So to modify the list -

Level 0 - 2 = Non Encrypted or Encoded (similar to private and confidential?)
Level 3 - 4 = OTR 1 - Base 64 or Base 85 encoded
Level 5 - 6 = OTR 2 - Hyper-encrypted (layered) Pen and Paper Ciphers
Level 7 = OTR 3 - Hyper-encrypted (layered) One Time Pad
Level 8 = OTR 4 - 128bit/256bit block cipher (AES or Rjindael or Twofish or Serpent)
Level 9 = OTR 5 - Cascaded Block Ciphers with salt (SHA 512 or Whirlpool etc)
Level 10 = OTR 6 - Cascaded Block Ciphers with salt and possible key file additions (to increase password strength)

For the moment therefore, I will continue to try and analyze the non Hex code and work out the block size, algorithm basis, key length etc.

If it is a block cipher, then algorithm cracking is pointless, and as such key forcing may be necessary.

If I were a betting man, I would say this is a 256bit encryption, probably of the AES or Rjindael cipher algorithm (not that you can tell from the code, but its pretty common) .

The password will probably be hinted at, perhaps in a less than obvious way. We can assume this much as it is almost impossible to analyze a cipher text with only one message and nothing to confirm patterns. Once I’ve got a rough estimate of what mode/algorithm it uses, I can dedicate some run time to rainbow table attacks on the key. I have a feeling this is a holding puzzle, designed to allow time to construct further aspects of the ARG or work on whatever is behind their NDA.

Recently there was a problem with the computer systems at work, so I may not have access to all the analytical machinery I usually do, it may take a bit longer to get more information, if i find anything interesting I’ll let you know. I may have access to some more specialist equipment at a later date, so more progress will likely be made then. I think we can rule out SSH or OTP though.

“I may have access to some more specialist equipment at a later date, so more progress will likely be made then.” What would he be referring to here? Just more advanced computers that can handle larger or multiple rainbow tables or perhaps faster analysis?


#5539

I dont know, why even give you any of that information, seems like some bull poopoo, he knows exactly what the solution is, so is he playing devils advocate to blow smoke up our 5th point of contact? Is it the game making dev? In what capacity is he giving this information. He’s obviously not being truthful. As if he is someone working on the puzzle, I dont understand.


#5540

I was thinking about something more along the lines of a brute force attack. Although, that is contradicted by the “CIA couldn’t brute force it”. The only ideas I’ve had so far are things related to block ciphers and hash functions. For example, one idea is that maybe the BENALOHPAILLIER password needs to be hashed an excessive amount times, using a hash algorithm like MD5, in order to get the correct encryption key for the block cipher. Or, perhaps the message was encrypted an excessive amount of times in cascade.

It could also simply be that it was used out of practicality to ensure that we got the original messages intact. If he had just pasted the original messages on IRC, it could have resulted in a jumbled mess. Besides base64, the only viable alternative would have been hex, but that’s not as efficient as base64. ASCII85 contains a lot of punctutation characters that might have resulted in a greater chance for errors when pasting in an IRC chat.

The way I see it is that an ARG can play out in its own universe with its own timeline, even though we are receiving the messages and interacting with the ARG in our own timeline. However, the Tempus page had a specific date on it that coincided with our own timeline. I don’t know what that means. It’s possible that the IRC clues took place in the past, and the Tempus page was a peek into the future where everyone but HALOS is dead and gone (or, maybe not everyone).

As for the coordinates, those came from IRC clue 2, which contained two sets of coordinates. The recipient was then told to ignore the first location data and travel 14.16 miles due east of the second location, which lead to a location just outside the HAFB. But someone also calculated the location for 14.16 miles due east of the first location, which turned out to be close to a Domino’s Pizza restaurant.

The thing is, what I remember from reading old IRC logs, is that he never really tried to throw the players off the scent. Instead, it was like he was trying to nudge people in the right direction. Everything he said about the Code D puzzle was close to the truth.