The newly formed U.S. Cyber Command is supposed to centralize and focus the military's ability to wage war over the Internet, but so far it's basically famous for brainteasers. The command's fancy logo contains a super-secret code in its inner gold ring: 9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a. Though some people noticed the code late last month, Wired's Threat Level Danger Room blog picked it up Wednesday morning and announced a contest, with a free T-shirt (or a ticket to the International Spy Museum) going to the first reader to crack the code.
Trouble is, no one knows for sure yet precisely what the 32-character code means. Or at least no one at Cyber Command appears to know. Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry, a spokesman, says "it's definitely the mission statement" of Cyber Command. "What part of the mission statement: That's what I'm waiting to find out on from the people who designed it."
Indeed, the heraldry notes accompanying the logo — i.e., explanations of what the symbols mean — say it contains a "computer code that ties the command back to the early days of computer networking; USCYBERCOM's mission statement is encrypted within this code." Curry suspects that the designers used a cryptographic algorithm called an MD5 hash to transform the mission statement into the string of characters, but he doesn't know whether they took choice bits or the whole statement, which reads:
USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.
We tried encrypting that entire statement using an MD5 hash generator, and we didn't get a match to the logo code. So it looks like just a portion of the statement has been encoded. Eventually someone will figure out which portion, and win a T-shirt from Wired — at which point the CIA will laugh at the whole episode, because it still has Kryptos, an encrypted sculpture commissioned on the grounds of its Langley headquarters. The code displayed on Kryptos hasn't been fully solved in 20 years and contains one of the world's most elusive cryptographic puzzles. Nice try, Cyber Command!