A mysterious coded image appeared on Reddit towards the end of May, accompanied by a list of clues and a wallet address containing 1 BTC for whoever solved the puzzle.
The image uses a mix of seemingly random words, numbers, symbols and colors to form a collage of clues which conceal a suspected 24-word seed phrase.
“This work is comprised of Satoshi Nakamoto’s famous whitepaper words, scaled by Log N. Disparate ideas inspired Satoshi to create a solution to revolutionize modern socio-economics and industry. The work reflects on the elements that brought this technology to life, and challenges the underlying security model. Hidden in plain sight lies something more: a treasure hunt. 1 BTC is concealed within the work.”
A frantic race to crack the code commenced immediately and is still ongoing. So far the poster of the puzzle has left nine clues to help us in our search for the solution.
The clues are just as cryptic as the puzzle itself, and have left many scratching their heads:
- You can throw out at least half the words in the picture
- Think in pairs
- Code easily, attack early
- Lost transaction costs almost users
- Try +1
- Almost open
- Bonus clue: To triumph, one must look within. To infinity, and beyond. When you are close to home, X marks the spot. (from here)
Many methods of approaching the problem have been put forth by the Reddit community thus far, but none have proved fruitful.
One Reddit user claimed he was waiting for the crypto market to turn around before submitting his solution, in the hope that the 1 BTC might be worth more in the future.
This may not be too far-fetched when you consider how long it has taken previous crypto puzzles to be solved.
The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto
This isn’t the first time a huge chunk of digital currency has been hidden inside a cryptographic image.
In 2015 a piece of coded art was released which came to be known as ‘The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto’. It was a painting which referenced William Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle, and used colours, shapes and spacing to subtly broadcast its hidden code. The artist hid the path to 4.87 Bitcoin somewhere in the painting.
The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto, Image from Motherboard
The image contained a hash number which led to a Bitcoin wallet, but that wasn’t discovered until 3 years later, in 2018, when a husband and wife pair of puzzle enthusiasts finally solved the puzzle.
One Bitcoin had a market value of around $250 dollars in April of 2015, when the wallet was initially set up.
By the time the puzzle was solved that wallet was suddenly holding around $50,000 worth of currency. Had the solution to the puzzle come just a few weeks earlier, during the peak of January, the wallet would have been worth over double its final value.
Marketing gurus have forever used competitions as a way to drum up publicity for their product or business, and with the invention of blockchain cryptocurrency artists now have an easy way to do the same.
Some artists are taking it a step further and devoting entire exhibitions to coded pieces of art which lead towards a cryptocurrency reward.
In March of 2018, an L.A – based artist, Andy Bauch, launched an art exhibition entitled ‘New Money’, which centered around the concept of cryptocurrencies, and was made up of pieces containing crypto wallet private keys.
New Money, Image from Andy Bauch
Interestingly, the artist’s chosen medium was Lego. Bauch arranged 100,000 Lego bricks in various patterns which he says were generated with human and algorithmic input.
The pieces contained a total of around $10,000 in crypto between them, with much of it coming in the form of Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin and Cannabiscoin.
Bauch claims to be attempting more than merely drumming up publicity, he told art magazine, Sciart in February:
“I am attempting to help those without computer science backgrounds visualize and understand the rather abstract concept of cryptocurrencies and simultaneously democratizing the potential and volatility that comes along with them.”
At the time of writing, some of Bauch’s codes have already been cracked, and people have received the corresponding wallet holdings.
Gaming Industry Takes Notice
A new video game released on the Steam platform turns the mathematic treasure hunt into a virtual reality.
MonteCrypto: The Bitcoin Enigma launched in February and allowed players to chase down crypto clues in a futuristic steampunk setting.
Monte Crypto, Image from Steam
The ultimate aim of the game was to find the 24-word private key which held the winner’s prize of 1 BTC.
Ultimately, it only took 2 months for an eager team of internet code breakers to find the solution. The team received the Bitcoin as promised, and have since transferred it out of the original wallet.
The game’s creators Corentin Derbré and Scott Piriou said:
“It’s been pretty amazing these past few months seeing everything you’ve been doing to get to the bottom of the enigma. MonteCrypto was also designed to be a social experiment of sorts… a test of collaboration vs. keeping secrets.
“Looking at the different paths you’ve explored together trying to bring the experiment to its conclusion, both in terms of the sharing and the sabotage has been pretty remarkable.”
It’s unknown whether the creators intend to update the game with a new puzzle, or whether two months will end being the total lifecycle for the game.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the gaming industry, a blockchain-based game is being developed by the same artist who created The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto. The internet-based artist known only by the twitter handle @coin_artist, has joined up with a game development team to turn her cryptographic talents to the video game world.
Neon District is a neo-noir, sci-fi game based in the near future, and will feature an easter-egg which is claimed to be worth 15 ETH. The game is only a third of the way through its development, but has had good hype so far, and will undoubtedly gain more if the value of those 15 ETH begin to rise.
Encoding images with digital currency isn’t just a pastime of artists and game developers, but is becoming a growing trend among internet cryptographers and meme-makers.
The /bitcoinpuzzles sub-reddit is a fairly active forum for amateur puzzle masters who leave crypto micropayments hidden in their images.
The forum has seen a major boost in user activity over the last few months, possibly spurred by the recent high-profile crypto-codes mentioned previously.
It’s not hard to see why this practice of coded image-making has become so prevalent in the cryptocurrency world, cryptocurrencies themselves are rooted in cryptography and and encryption and this seems to be an extension of that.
Given the publicity that these competitions can drum up, don’t be surprised if we’re witnessing the dawn of a new marketing strategy. Not just for crypto firms hoping to make a splash with their ICO, but for artists and entrepreneurs too.