Culture

The Four Greatest Unsolved Mysteries On The Internet

Webdriver Torso was solved this week -- but the jury's still out on these other ones.

#3: Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?

It has been suggested that Cicada 3301 might have something to do with the most talked-about topic in the world of cryptanalysis: Bitcoin. Bitcoin is money generated by software that can only be obtained by cracking various digital codes. Finding Bitcoin is much like deciphering a Cicada 3301 clue, just using computer power and not occult poetry. This online currency, which was once only whispered about in the dark corners of the Internet, has become a talking point in mainstream financial media, launching hundreds of other cryptocurrency competitors – and, last week, plans for the very first Bitcoin ATM in Zurich.

“Satoshi Nakamoto” is the creator of Bitcoin, responsible for releasing 21 million units of the currency into the digital wild in 2009. Since then, a little over 12 million of them have been found, and their value has sky rocketed; at time of publishing, one Bitcoin will buy AU$673, although this price is unstable. This means that those who bought some of the currency early because of its novelty have become rich overnight without doing any real work. It also means that Satoshi Nakamoto, who is said to have put aside one million Bitcoin for himself, is a very rich man. Or woman? Or maybe corporation? Bank? Alien race?

This is where the mystery lies. Satoshi Nakamoto remains anonymous, and his/her/their identity is subject to endless speculation. Notable suggestions include American researcher Nick Szabo, Japanese maths prodigy Shinichi Mochizuki, and Silk Road’s own Ross William Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts. Towards the end of last year, Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California, was identified by Newsweek as being the Satoshi. He was hounded by the media until a message was posted to a technology website stating, “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”

So, the hunt continues. This infographic gives an epic run down of all the prime suspects, but whoever Satoshi is, they are smart enough to encode an untraceable currency onto the Internet. If they want to avoid being uncovered, they will.

 

#4: The Deep Web And Marianas Web

Much of the interest surrounding Bitcoin comes from its connection to illegal activity carried out on the Deep Web, where the darkest, most evil of all Internet mysteries reside.

The Deep Web is the Internet that cannot be found using a search engine. A common analogy is that using Google or Yahoo on the Internet today is like dragging a net across the surface of the ocean. You inevitably catch a lot of stuff, but there will be elaborate eco-systems of information that reside in the deep, which will be swept right over. This is because pages in the Deep Web are not indexed in a way that allows traditional search engines to see them. Recent evaluations say that the Deep Web could be 500 times bigger than the 555 million websites on the visible web.

deep

Because it’s so huge yet so elusive, even the language used when talking about the Deep Web is cloaked in mystery, obscured by a vocabulary of myth and fear. Most conversations about the Deep Web inevitably contain a lot of apocrypha, and usually being with, ‘They say that the Deep Web…’ However, who this ‘they’ actually is remains unclear. One thing they all seem to agree on is that the Deep Web descends in levels:

Level 1: Facebook, YouTube, Google. This is where we all play freely in the sunlight.

Level 2: Academic databases, personal information, financial records. To access this level, you need usernames and passwords.

Level 3: Illicit drugs, child porn, stolen credit card numbers, human trafficking, weapons, exotic animals. To reach this level you need to use Tor, a browser that operates by bouncing communications off servers around the world to make it difficult to detect the user’s IP address.

Although a lot of the activity that Tor is used for is evil, it is also used as a safe-haven for victims of cyber stalking, political dissidents, and can help just about anyone regain digital independence. In fact, when Twitter was momentarily banned in Turkey in the lead up to this year’s election, Tor saw a massive spike in activity in the region.

Level 4: Also known as the Marianas Web — named after the deepest ocean trench on Earth — this level is speculative; no one knows whether it actually exists. Said to contain a repository of all of humanity’s best-kept secrets, including the location of Atlantis, it is more or less the Internet’s version of the Vatican secret archives.

Some intrepid Internet mavericks even claim that the Marianas Web is the location of a super intelligent form of female AI that has become sentient, and overlooks the Internet like some unfathomable digital mother nature. You can only access this level using Polymeric Falcighol Derivation, which requires quantum computers to work. Quantum computers  do not exist.

Even though the Marianas Web is a bit of a joke, the Deep Web certainly isn’t, and for me it captures all other Internet mysteries. It is a completely unregulated store of massive amounts of information with no real distinction between real and fake. Also, it’s filled with trolls and criminals, who thrive on misdirection and fear.

At the end of the day, though, the Deep Web is still just a network of human-made activity: anything mysterious that happens inside it emanates from us, and our technology. Yet, the way people talk about it – with fear and reverence – almost feels like it’s somehow become the subconscious of the Internet, filled with our collective terrors, where ghosts, boogeymen, gods, myths and supernatural dreams of the past 10,000 years of civilisation have been uploaded, and from where they will continue to haunt us into the future.

Oscar Schwartz is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. He writes about how technology is changing what it means to be a human. He blogs about it here, and tweets regularly @scarschwartz.

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