Earlier this week an official Twitter account for the US National Security Agency sent out a cryptic tweet containing strings of apparently random characters.
Was it some sort of high profile hack? An accidental leak of national secrets? Or just Crypto, the NSA cat, taking a stroll across the keyboard of the agency's social media manager. The internet had to find out.
After a bit of squinting at the screen and reading the message backwards some bright spark decided to run the message through an online cryptography program known as quipqiup.
Feeding the characters into this and running it through a few substitution ciphers (where the letters of the alphabet are simply swapped around) revealed the rather disappointing message: "Want to know what it takes to work at NSA? Check back each Monday in May as we explore careers essential to protecting our nation."
So, yes, this wasn't unfortunately a code of national interest, but merely relevant to the cryptographically talented and the ambitious.
Speaking to The Daily Dot, an NSA spokesperson confirmed that the tweet was part of a campaign to "attract the best and brightest" to the intelligence agency, with further "mission related coded Tweets" due to be posted on each Monday this month.
This sort of recruitment strategy is not unusual for government agencies looking to attract curious youngsters online. In September last year GCHQ, the NSA's British counterpart, set up their own "cyber treasure-hunt" sprinkling a series of codes across the web.
- The Independent