, one of the most popular news portals in the world, has published an article about the Kryptos sculpture. And then, there’s a question about Kryptos I would like to ask my readers.

I’m sure most of my readers have already heard about it, but let me mention it again: My new book Codebreaking: A Practical Guide will be published in November 2020. If you’re looking for a nice Christmas present, here you go. The book will be sold at a price of about €18 or $20.


Book website launched

My co-author Elonka Dunin and I have now launched our official book website.

Source: screenshot

The site is still work-in-progress, but it already provides a lot of valuable information. Among other things, it includes an “author bios”, a “gallery”, and an “FAQ” page. The table of contents and a literature list are available online, too. In addition, our acknowledgement list, which includes all persons who have contributed to this book, has its own page.

Source: Miranker


A CNN article about Kryptos

Speaking of Elonka, the CNN website, one of the most important news portals in the world, recently featured her in an article about the Kryptos sculpture. This article doesn’t provide much new information, but at least it contains a few nice quotes such as the following:

I have one individual who contacts me once a week at exactly the same second – I think it’s Tuesdays at 8:23 in the morning – with a decrypt, and this person has been doing this for two-and-a-half years.
Kryptos creator Jim Sanborn

In addition, this publiction is a nice summary of the Kryptos topic and is therefore worth reading for every crypto enthusiast.

If you look at the fifth photograph shown in the article, you might spot Mike Godwin, a friend of Elonka’s. Mike is known as the creator of Godwin’s Law (also known as Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies), a famous internet adage. He has provided the following advertisement statement (blurb) for our codebreaking book:

Riveting. Dunin and Schmeh show us that we each have our own inner codebreaker yearning to be set free. Codebreaking isn’t just for super-geniuses with supercomputers, it’s something we were all born to do.


A question for my readers

Finally, I would like to ask my readers a question that was recently brought up by Leon Schulman (he contributed to the book and is therefore mentioned on our acknowledgement list) on the Kryptos mailing list. Leon wrote:

Mr. Sanborn apparently registered a copyright on the plaintext of Kryptos/K4 – the two registered copyright records are:

Kryptos – TX0006612228 (1990)

Kryptos text – TXu001663615 (2010)

These two documents have never been discussed in the Kryptos community. Perhaps, they contain information that is helpful for breaking the fourth Kryptos part (the others have already been solved). Does a reader of this blog have access to the US copyright records database? Is there another way to get hold of these documents? If so, please let us know.

Further reading: The Top 50 unsolved encrypted messages: 4. Kryptos


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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 TWO
    29. Juli 2020

    No idea about this.

    But it should be publicly available.

    There will be some sort of ceremony later this year on the CIA campus.

    No info is released about this event.

    But the list of invitees contain some very interesting names.

  2. #2 Richard Bean
    29. Juli 2020

    What Leon got is unfortunately all you get. You go first to, then click the link which says “Search Copyright Records”, which currently takes you to a Library of Congress site – – then you type “Sanborn Herbert James” (no commas or quotes) in the box, select “Search by Name” in the box below, then “Begin Search”. This link seems to take you directly to his page (at the moment!).

    Anyway. Sanborn was discussing it in the context of lawyers:

    “I had to compose several paragraphs, which they are called K1, K2, K3, and K4. That text written in English by me and also Howard Carter are the elements that are—K1, 2, 3 have already been deciphered. K4 has not been deciphered. It’s the plain text that I have copyright on. And the encoding system isn’t copyrightable. But it doesn’t matter because frankly, you know—anyway, since I have copyright on the plain text, then there is some proprietary owning of the text, which thank God, some part of it I can own and am able to control [01:20:00], so other interpreters don’t try to imply that my artwork means something that it does not. And that is a challenge.”

    And I have no idea how you copyright plain text when you’ve only made the encrypted version public, or what that means. I know in some legal systems you can be an anonymous plaintiff, like in the Techno Viking case in Germany, but to explain what copyrighting an unknown plain text means or what effect it might have … we’d need a US copyright lawyer!

    On the subject, Sanborn had a trademark from 2011 to 2018 that you can find in the TESS database. Probably more relevant than this are the TecSec patents on multi-layered encryption, key escrow etc.

    Sculpture and artwork made of metal which contain encoded text relating to secrets and secrecy; sculpture and artwork made primarily of the metal in combination with granite, slate, quartz, petrified wood, and/or lodestone, which contains encoded text relating to secrets and secrecy.
    FIRST USE: 19911101.
    Serial Number 85076841
    Filing Date July 2, 2010
    Published for Opposition April 12, 2011
    Registration Number 4077742
    Registration Date December 27, 2011
    Cancellation Date August 3, 2018

  3. #3 Ralf Buelow
    29. Juli 2020

    Interesting. November 3rd is the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the sculpture.

  4. #4 TWO
    29. Juli 2020

    No way he can copyright the passage based on the diary of Howard Carter,

  5. #5 Seth
    30. Juli 2020

    He almost certainly tried to copyright his cipher text, the use of tables, the carving of letters into copper or any other materials, etc. He was pissed that Dan Brown was “stealing” from him by making a passing reference to Kryptos in one of his books.

    Anyway, that CNN article has a lot of factual errors:

    Unveiled on November 3, 1990, it’s called Kryptos, and it contains a cryptographic challenge. Surely, someone would crack the code in just a couple of weeks, Sanborn thought.

    In previous interviews he said he though the last section would take far longer.

    “I cut with jigsaws, by hand, almost 2,000 letters,” Sanborn says.

    IIRC he went through something like 4 assistants who did most/all of the cutting. But claiming he did it all by himself seems to fit with his personality, like his claims that he invented crypto puzzles and made crypto cool. I guess he invented those cryptograms my grandma used to solve in the paper, too?

    “Iqlusion” isn’t a typo. Sanborn intentionally misspelled the word “illusion.” It was his way of throwing people off.

    His own worksheets clearly show it was a typo when he misspelled the keyword. Yet he keeps implying it was on purpose until questioned directly when he gets vague.

  6. #6 Richard Bean
    31. Juli 2020

    Good summary, Seth!

    There’s five different stories on how long it was supposed to last, two different stories on whether or not Scheidt knew the plain text, and three different stories on how many people did the metal cutting. It’s like Rashomon! I guess this way people keep talking about it for longer.

    (1) Sanborn: I thought it would be solved immediately

    Surely, someone would crack the code in just a couple of weeks. — Sanborn 2020
    I assumed that people would figure it out in a matter of weeks — Sanborn 2009
    I really expected [Kryptos] to get decoded in the first few months — Sanborn 2005

    (2) Scheidt: It was intended to last 5, 7, or 10 years

    Its intent was to last roughly five years; it was modeled along those lines — Scheidt 2000
    the last part, perhaps ten — Scheidt 1999
    Scheidt figured the whole puzzle would be solved in less than seven years — Scheidt 2009
    (five, seven & ten years again) — Scheidt 2006/07

    (3) Sanborn: It was intended to last 100 years (at this point you start to worry about his thought process – if one way or another he’s “accidentally” made it impossible)

    So anyway that will go on hopefully for a century, long after my death. — Sanborn 2009
    I wanted this piece to last into or through the 21st century. — Sanborn 2009

    (4) Sanborn: It will/might never be solved

    [Kryptos] is so hard to break that the CIA “will never figure it out” — Sanborn 1997
    Parts can be deciphered in a matter of weeks or months, but other parts might never be deciphered without the knowledge that Webster has. — Sanborn 1991
    Part of it was designed to be deciphered within a couple of weeks. Part of it was designed to be deciphered within a couple of months. And part of it within years, or never. — Sanborn 1991

    (5) Sanborn: I’ll decide how long it will take

    Like Kryptos, the other public works are designed to exude their information slowly. … For the past 30 years, my task as an artist has been to release this hidden information at a rate commensurate with its importance, and at the time of my choosing so as to prolong the experience of discovery. As we all know, artwork that gives up its form or content quickly is soon forgotten. — Sanborn 2012


    (1) Scheidt: I don’t know what the plaintext is

    Jim is really the only person that knows what [the sculpture] says. I don’t. And all I
    talked about, or we discussed, was the codes themselves, and the limitations as well as
    how it could it be adapted into his design. — Scheidt 1991

    (2) Scheidt: I checked the first three parts, but not the last part

    Q: So the text that’s on the sculpture at some point you went in and you looked at the ciphers
    and you worked backwards to the plaintext?
    A: Yeah, except for K4 I didn’t. I did all the others. — Scheidt 2015


    (1) Sanborn: I did all the metal cutting myself (ok, he probably didn’t mean it literally, but usually people talk the other way around – they use the royal “we” when they mean just themselves)

    I cut with jigsaws, by hand, almost 2,000 letters — Sanborn 2020.

    (2) An assistant: all the metal cutting was the work of two people

    I helped Jim Sanborn build and install a sculpture called Kryptos. Actually another person and I did all the work, but what can ya say? — Oct 2001

    I worked at the CIA for about a year… actually, I worked for an artist who had a commission to install a sculpture called “kryptos” at the CIA. I cut all those letters out by hand with a bosch saber saw..well, me and one other person. — May 2001

    (3) Sanborn: There were about 20 assistants

    Nine hundred jigsaw blades, nine jigsaws, and about 20 assistants because they could not take it; they could only—each assistant lasted, most of the assistants lasted only a week or two. — Sanborn 2009

  7. #7 TWO
    31. Juli 2020

    If You want a good laugh abiyt Kryptos

    And don’t take it too serious 🙂

    Cia old headquarters building
    Northeast cornerstone bo
    x its walls inside Berlin clock
    Easter ears bunny baud we go

    Reminds me of Klaus and his Lego.

    Be safe

  8. #8 Greg
    KRYPTOS - the keyword for K4
    18. August 2020

    Calculations for K1, K2, K3:

    Average distances in Kryptos between decrypted and encrypted texts are:
    Part 1: around 6,7
    Part 2: around 8,9
    Part 3: around 6,7
    Seem to be close to 6,5

    if we split letters of decrypted messages to two sets:



    and calculate distances separately, then the distances are:
    Part 1 for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (7,1 vs 5,5) – similar (7,1/5,5 = 1,29)
    Part 2 for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (8,3 vs 9,8) – similar (8,3/9,8 = 0,84)
    Part 3 for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (6,4 vs 7,4) – similar (6,4/7,4 = 0,86)
    everything behaves as it should behave in a correct cipher.

    Calculations for clues:

    Now lets take a look into clues BERLIN, CLOCK and NORTHEAST

    BERLIN clue for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (9 vs 2) – incident (9/2 = 4,5)
    CLOCK clue for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (11,6 vs 4,5) – coincidence (11,6/4,5 = 2,6)
    NORTHEAST clue for (IS_NOT_KR vs IS_KR) = (5,25 vs 1,4) – pattern (5,25/1,4 = 3,75)
    These are much larger values than they should be for a random word as a keyword.

    This pattern shows that KRYPTOS is the keyword used for Part 4.