CIA’s Kryptos clue unveiled; is the code closer to being cracked?

The Central Intelligence Agency has a puzzle that has gone unsolved for decades.

A piece of art with what seems to be random characters and symbols was commissioned as a reflection of the job the CIA does, the agency said.

What was designed was called Kryptos, the Greek word for hidden, and was installed at the New Headquarters Building constructed in 1991 in Langley, Virginia.

But Kryptos isn’t just a piece of art -- it is comprised of codes and until recently only three parts had been cracked, but we could be a step closer to figuring out the fourth and final part.

Every part of Kryptos has meaning, whether obvious or not.

Artist James Sanborn said, according to the CIA, "They will be able to read what I wrote, but what I wrote is a mystery itself." And he had an expert in codes, a retired CIA cryptographer, help create it with the actual text being written by Sanborn and a "prominent fiction writer."

A team from the National Security Agency cracked the first passage. Two others were also solved, but the fourth is the one that has professional and amateur code breakers scratching their heads.

It's so difficult, that Sanborn has had to release clues over the years. The first was unveiled in 2010 (Berlin), a second in 2014 (clock), according to The New York Times.

Sanborn released a third and final clue this week. The New York Times reported it was a single word: Northeast. And while the clues were released in this order -- Berlin, clock, Northeast -- they appear in Kryptos in this order -- Northeast, Berlin, clock.

He said the timing of the clue release itself was significant; it was released almost to the day that he originally developed the Kryptos code, Sanborn told NPR.

But even when it's finally fully decoded, there will be one more mission -- to solve the riddle, he told NPR.

Sanborn hopes that the code is never cracked, he said, adding that it has been magic having his vision stay alive for 30 years, he told NPR.

To try your hand at breaking the code, click here.

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