Please Help Me Decode This


#1

Hello, everyone. I'm TripleThreat. I suppose I'm a new member, although I've known @sk3tch for years. I would have been involved earlier, but I've been recovering from a terminal illness and I'm still not really feeling well enough to get to work again.

However, the work doesn't want to wait for me. I'm in off-and-on contact with an old friend of mine who's living off the grid and she recently sent me a parcel through the post that looks important. It's a cluster of VMs on an SSD with weird names, odd security setups, and some apparently nonsense data.

She and I used to play around with riddles and puzzles, but most of my memories and experience with that part of my life are either secondhand or in hardcopy/digital storage rather than meat. I've been endeavouring to figure out what she's trying to tell me with no success.

When sk3tch reminded me about this group I knew some people here would be able to help me. Take a look and let me know if any of this makes sense to you.

https://exploitzeroday.com/cluster/B4x3z5/


#2

Whoa! Hey, @TripleThreat! What's going on? I missed you! tada

Folks, Trip and I go way back. They're pretty cool. If I get a break from darknet enhancements, I'll try and help out, but until then someone should do them a solid!!!

peace,
sk3tch


#3

I'll just gather all the pure text information in here for posterity, ordered by given file order.


CLUSTER_NAME: "IMIN2D6OMATIC"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "THEDEATHOFLIVENGOOD"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Year In Question"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "Yields That Which Carmel-by-the-Sea Lacks"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "TFHFEAHNOGRRROOCRKO"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Time He Interrupted"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "SCYTALE10/2"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "ALLWEREBURNED"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "They Are the Name of the Way"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "Xianyang Penryn Washington Phnom Penh"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "PICASSOMATISSE"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "Meet Me Here"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "At the City of their Grand Bargain"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "COMEBEARINGGIFTS"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "RPS8-19"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "99-0201"

  SYSTEM_NAME: "ANNIVERSARYOFTHEAPOCALYPSE"
    SYSTEM_TITLE: "Six Months Before"
    SYSTEM_DESC: "Carrington Stared Into The Flame"

To an unaware observer this may look like gibberish. To me, this looks like gibberish. I wish, someday, every crazy out there would just stop giving us this cryptic crap and just lay it flat. We could get a lot more done that way.


#4

Let us being the deconstruction.


CLUSTER_NAME: "IMIN2D6OMATIC"

I'll just have the nonexistent cryptology department have this one.

SYSTEM_NAME: "THEDEATHOFLIVENGOOD"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Year In Question"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Yields That Which Carmel-by-the-Sea Lacks"

The system name most likely refers to a politician who died of heart attack while shoveling snow. Specifically, this topic comes up, which I think is far more relevant.
Looking over all this, I think the system titles are supposed to be taken literally. Here, for example, it tells us when the year when "The Death of Livengood" will give us what Carmel lacks.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a city in California. As for what it lacks, I have no idea.

SYSTEM_NAME: "TFHFEAHNOGRRROOCRKO"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Time He Interrupted"
SYSTEM_DESC: "SCYTALE10/2"

The system name here is easy: "THEHORROROFFANGROCK", an episode of Doctor Who. The cryptic crap just keeps going deeper and deeper.
A scytale is an ancient cryptological tool.
Going by the last bit, we might have to watch an episode of Doctor Who. My worst nightmare hath come true at last.

SYSTEM_NAME: "ALLWEREBURNED"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "They Are the Name of the Way"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Xianyang Penryn Washington Phnom Penh"

First of all, Xianyang is a city in China, Penryn is in England (also related to old microprocessors, if it may prove relevant), Washinton is obvious, Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia.
"All were burned" may refer to book burning. Specifically, the burning of books 213-210BC Qin dynasty China. Apparently, Xianyang was the capital in the Qin times.
I think this is trying to compare Samsara, or whoever it is we're dealing with, to Hitler. Yeah, we know.

SYSTEM_NAME: "PICASSOMATISSE"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "Meet Me Here"
SYSTEM_DESC: "At the City of their Grand Bargain"

Picasso may refer to Pablo Picasso, Matisse may refer to Henri Matisse, two great artists of their period.
"the city of their grand bargain" may refer to New York, where a retrospective exhibition has been held. Either that, or Paris where Pablo has first met Matisse in 1905.

SYSTEM_NAME: "COMEBEARINGGIFTS"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "RPS8-19"
SYSTEM_DESC: "99-0201"

In short, bring her some flowers.

SYSTEM_NAME: "ANNIVERSARYOFTHEAPOCALYPSE"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "Six Months Before"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Carrington Stared Into The Flame"

Flowers might not cut it. Maybe a bomboniere too.


#5

Thanks for the text! I would have been left out otherwise.

CLUSTER_NAME: "IMIN2D6OMATIC"

I'm in 2D6omatic.
I'm in Diceomatic? (probably not, but... * shrugs*)
I'm in Dichromatic???

TFHFEAHNOGRRROOCRKO:

Decoding TFHFEAHNOGRRROOCROKO using a Scytale (10 letters on each row, 2 rows) gives "The Horror of Fang Rock").

Perhaps "The time he interrupted" refers to the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion interrupting that very episode. (November 22, 1987? @ 11:15pm)

ALLWEREBURNED:

SYSTEM_DESC: What the cities all have in common is a burned library.

Edit: There's a place in New York called Library Way

All the burned objects are the name of the way -> Library Way

COMEBEARINGGIFTS

Combining the title and description we get RPS8-1999-0201, a patent for the USB flash drive by IBM.
Beware of Greeks bearing flash drives?

ANIIVERSARYOFTHEAPOCALPSE

As like in COMEBEARINGGIFTS, I think the title and description are meant to be combined.


Feel free to check my work to make sure I've got everything right.

Unfortunately we don't really know what we're looking for at this point, so all our answers at this point are wild guesses.


#6

From what I know my friend doesn't care about Samsara. She's got enough on her plate with her own problems. This is a personal message for me.

I have an encrypted flash drive of hers that she gave me for safekeeping. She said she might ask for it if things became dire. If she wants me to deliver it to her ("come bearing gifts") that can be arranged, but I'd need to know where and when. There are definitely allusions to time and place in what you've uncovered so far, but I can't yet assemble them into anything usable.

I really appreciate the help you've all given so far. I wish I was in a condition to help more.


#7

Well, where do you think she would meet with you? The place of meeting is likely to have something to do with the works of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris seems to be the most likely, in retrospect. It's a great bargain for sure.


#8

Some ideas to throw around (becuase I've had enough of editing my post, it's getting too damn long)

ANIIVERSARYOFTHEAPOCALPSE

Does "carrington" have to do with Carrington-class solar storms?

THEDEATHOFLIVENGOOD

Maybe we should look for something that happened to Carmel in 2011 (When the topic was first posted)

IMIN2D6OMATIC

???

PICASSOMATISSE

Maybe the "their" being mentioned isn't Picasso and Matisse, but related to them (or their art somehow)


#9

Unless she's come into more resources than when I last communicated with her, it's probably somewhere in the continental United States. Her acquiring a passport would be complicated, and air travel presents financial challenges.

The New York City connection doesn't feel right. There have been similar exhibits in Fort Worth, San Francisco, and London. There's something more to that triplet of clues, I think. I remember that she always chose her words very carefully in riddles like this. I used to enjoy it, but right now I wish she'd been a little less paranoid and a bit more direct.


#10

And Baltimore? The Baltimore Museum of Art hosts the Cone Collection, which concentrates specifically on works of these artists.
Maybe I'm just grasping at straws.

Actually, maybe the title is referring to the later articles? The 2 may refer to the value acquired from the Horrof of Fang Rock interruption, and the 6 to the "anniversary of the apocalypse"?


#11

For carmel-by-the-sea

http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/LAFCO/2013/MSRs%20&%20Maps%20for%20Web%20Nov%207/Cities/Carmel%20MSR%20-%20Sphere%20Review%20Adopted%20012411a.pdf

published in 2011.

Breakthrough on the Carrington front:

Richard Carrington observed a LARGE solar flare on September 1, 1859. 6 months before that would put that in March 1859.


#12

Carmel-by-the-Sea lacks house numbers. I think this means that the year in question is the street address of the building.


#13

CuCN, thanks! I think I see it all now.

@TripleThreat, I think you need to meet your friend on March 1st, 11:15pm @ 2011 Library Street, Detroit with the USB.

CLUSTER_NAME: "IMIN2D6OMATIC"

Still unfortunately, unknown.

SYSTEM_NAME: "THEDEATHOFLIVENGOOD"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Year In Question"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Yields That Which Carmel-by-the-Sea Lacks"

@Enthernal pointed us to a threat which talked about the death of Livengood, which happened in 2011

Address: 2011

SYSTEM_NAME: "TFHFEAHNOGRRROOCRKO"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "The Time He Interrupted"
SYSTEM_DESC: "SCYTALE10/2"

Decoding it using a scytale (at 10/2) gives us

Which was interrupted on november 22, @ 11:15 pm.

Time: 11:15pm

SYSTEM_NAME: "ALLWEREBURNED"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "They Are the Name of the Way"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Xianyang Penryn Washington Phnom Penh"

Street name: Library

SYSTEM_NAME: "PICASSOMATISSE"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "Meet Me Here"
SYSTEM_DESC: "At the City of their Grand Bargain"

Picasso and Matisse were both great artists.

The Detroit art museum holds a number of their works, and recently (since Detroit's filed bankruptcy protection) people have been looking into selling some of the paintings. Proponents of the museum have developed a "GRAND BARGAIN" to prevent this.

Might be a little bit of a stretch, but whatever.

City: Detroit

SYSTEM_NAME: "COMEBEARINGGIFTS"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "RPS8-19"
SYSTEM_DESC: "99-0201"

Item: USB Flash Drive

SYSTEM_NAME: "ANNIVERSARYOFTHEAPOCALYPSE"
SYSTEM_TITLE: "Six Months Before"
SYSTEM_DESC: "Carrington Stared Into The Flame"

Date: March 1st

and yes, 2011 Library Street in Detroit is a real place.


#14

This all feels right. Thank you, @Enthernal, @TChosen1, and @CuCN. I'll arrange for one of me to be there at that time to make the handoff. I very much appreciate it. I couldn't have done it without you. I wish I understood the title IMIN2D6OMATIC; it might give me a clue as to the situation my friend is in.

I've realised that I haven't shared much about my friend. And for her safety I shouldn't say much. But I can give some details, as it's very unlikely that it will be traced back to her on any meaningful timescale.

My friend knew me during my extended adolescence, and was supportive as I was becoming authentically myself. At the same time, she was dealing with her own problems. She was a low-level government employee working for an elected official with questionable ethics. In the same week she was propositioned by her employer and asked to become complicit in corruption.

She chose to strike back. Faced with sexual harassment and government abuse, she became a blackmailer. She's kept many people safe from exploitation with the evidence she carries, but at the cost of her own safety. She doesn't stay in any one place for long. I only communicate with her on occasion and only through anonymised means. I've never checked, but I believe that the USB drive I have is a backup copy of the blackmail material. If she needs it now...

I will be careful.

((OOC: In case you were wondering, there won't be anyone there in real life at the arranged time and place. Please don't make a trip to Detroit expecting to meet a character. relaxed)


#15

You know, I've always wondered about what happened to your friend. Since I wasn't requested to go (it was probably @CuCN), @Enthernal and I never really got a conclusion to this. Is it safe to share yet?


#16

You're right, I'm sorry. I was holding back on saying too much so that I wouldn't put her at risk, but again it's been long enough that I can share generalities.

I went to meet her at the assigned location. She was a bit late. I suspect she didn't recognize me at first. She's familiar with my unusual personal circumstances, but I don't look like I did when I knew her best. Still, once she was satisfied it was me, I gave her the drive and asked what was happening.

It seems that the official she's been blackmailing had been recently appointed to a position with a bit more influence. A week after his promotion, while she was out getting food, her hotel room was broken into and searched. They found two copies of her blackmail insurance and destroyed much of her hardware.

She found herself in a dilemma. Her former boss knew where she was (roughly) and knew that she knew. He couldn't act against her until he was sure that she didn't have any additional copies of the evidence. She didn't have any extra copies on her person, and she didn't want to risk crossing state lines to get access to her own cached copy. She didn't know what resources he had access to and what he was monitoring. Even her carefully-hidden bank accounts might have been watched.

Luckily, there were a lot of places to hide in Detroit. She used what hardware she had to construct the message — coded in case the package was intercepted — and lived on what cash she had on hand. Surely her former boss kept looking for her, but in a world of connected information someone living off the grid is very hard to find indeed.

Our meeting was brief. I gave her the drive, asked a few questions, gave her an awkward hug, and left. Days afterward, I saw that the official in question had retired from public office to "spend more time with his family." You probably saw the news story. I won't tell you which one, for her protection. Eventually I heard word from her: she had rebuilt her hardware and was relatively safe again.

Even with that official gone, though, she's not free. The corruption situation involved many other officials. While they've seen demonstration that she's resourceful and not to be casually interfered with, they are sure to regard her as a threat. I suspect she'll need more support in the future.

Thank you all again for your help.


#17

I'm into Dsixomatic?
I'm in twodsixomatic?
I'm into desic somatic?
I'm in to de sick somatic?

...Somatic is an interesting word. Something about body parts or things connected to the body? Also something about voluntary body movements? nerves? medicine? Social behavior?

Desic may be short for geodesic. I have no idea what desic alone means. maybe it means discs or space. Straight lines are actually circles in curvy space? Architectural structures that are spheres made of small polygons?

I have three interpretations. One may have something to do with the blackmail thing (In which case, it's already resolved). The other may mean that your friend may be sick and you were supposed to feel it from that hug. The last is that this whole thing is a joke that completely flew over our heads (especially TripleThreat's).

...Do you guys think this line of work is messing with our social lives?


#18

I have no idea what it might mean, but I have heard that in Dungeons and Dragons, dice rolls are sometimes referred to as NDS, with N being the number of dice, D standing for dice, and the S being the number of sides on each die. Could 2D6 be some kind of reference to that?