“The voice of reason is more to be regarded than the bent of any present inclination; since inclination will at length come over to reason, though we can never force reason to comply with inclination.” – Joseph Addison

“Wise men are instructed by reason; men of less understanding, by experience; the most ignorant, by necessity; and beasts, by nature.” – Cicero

What does reason tell us about K4?  If we take in the nature of the ciphertext and the things we can learn from the interviews with the creators, what do we find?

It tells us there are some things that K4 cannot possibly be, at least before the masking technique has been solved. 

  • Simple substitution, i.e. monographic monoliteral substitution of any kind or of any complexity or any combination of such up to an infinite number applied consecutively
  • Transposition alone of any kind or complexity
  • a Vigenere cipher
  • Digraphic substitution because 97 is an odd number
  • A system that allows irregular CT to PT exchange, basically anything that changes the number of letters unless there’s a clever manipulation of plaintext to allow the same final number of letters.
  • A one-time pad because if used correctly it would be impossible to solve
  • A stream or block cipher because they are very difficult if not impossible to solve with one example, that is very small, and not using a computer but they also represent much more modern ciphering systems than were to be used in K4.  Conceivably one could argue their use would compromise systems in use at that time which the CIA forbade Scheidt from doing.
  • Anything other than “pencil-and-paper” ciphers
  • It’s probably not in code (code as in letter or words representing words/sentences/messages not to be confused with ciphers)
  • It’s not an anagram
  • A literal application of K3 directions to K4 text, please reference John Wilson’s site
  • It’s probably not an overlay of the cipher side on the vigenere tableau because that is more likely a possibility for after K4 has been solved.
  • It is not unsolvable by intent, that goes completely against the point of the piece

There’s quite a few things it can’t be, what is still possible?

  • Something else
  • Something I don’t know of or haven’t considered
  • Something invented specifically for Kryptos
  • Something Ed came up with and Jim changed after the fact
  • Steganography followed by a known cipher method (trick answer, this is exactly what it is)
  • A method similar to a Castor cipher (Something I came up with)
  • Fractionated Morse Cipher
  • It could use a non-English language during the ciphering which can then be translated into English, the challenge here is maintaining letter count
  • Something absolutely bizarre and crazy, although this is unlikely
  • A multiple step ciphering method, probably not that many steps though
  • It’s still possible that there is a keyword message or means of retrieving the keys for each part that has yet to be found
  • It’s still possible to solve K4, even if Sanborn screwed it up

I’ve tried a lot of different things and been heavily influenced by traditional ciphering methods. 

One thing I’ve come to realize is that the masking method used on K4 is not part of a traditional ciphering system.  It is probably influenced by them and it’s extremely, extremely likely that behind the mask of K4 lies a well-known cipher system that will potentially be challenging but will not likely last 20 years.  Does this mean throw caution to the wind and work on our “magic unicorn cipher” theories?  No.  Can you be completely and absolutely sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s not some known system?  No.  Maybe I used the wrong keywords, maybe it’s 98 letters, maybe I didn’t try each and every single traditional cipher method.  Would I bet money that the mask is not a traditional cipher method?  Yes.  How good do you feel about this?  Very good.  Good enough to suggest to everyone who may read this that they too should give up on standard cipher methods as a means to un-mask K4?  Yes.  Is it probable that K4 is not a single cipher algorithm cryptosystem?  Yes, it very probably uses a non-traditional but rational means of masking a known ciphersystem. 

Where do we go from here?

If I was to give unasked for advice, I would recommend two things

  1. Work to find the keywords to at least K1 and K2 while hopefully elucidating the keys/hints to each part of Kryptos which will give us the clues specific to K4.
  2. Seek to find well-reasoned and rational possible single-step methods for the masking technique that change letter frequency and can be reversed.

Am I giving up?  No.

Do I regret all the time I’ve put into the areas I’ve focused on?  No.

Is it possible the keywords can be retrieved by some traditional cipher method?  Yes.

Do I think we need to be there to solve K4?  No, though probably to solve the final riddle it will be necessary.

Why does it seem that so many people have tried and failed?  Where did they go wrong?  How can we solve it if they failed?  We have failed to this point through inexperience, through pursuing methods that have no chance of working, through a lack of time, through a lack of focus, through a lack of sanity, through a lack of interest.  There are surges of interest in Kryptos and then it ebbs as a lot of smart people consider the problem, give it a try, fail and give up.  There’s also a lot of dumb people that try Kryptos or crazy people who try Kryptos.  Sometimes it’s hard to put someone specifically in just one of those categories.  All it’s going to take is a sane, creative, intelligent person to put all the pieces together and figure out the steps needed to solve the fourth part and the rest.  That could be you but I rather hope it will be me too.

I wish everyone good luck and I hope to keep my reason and wits about me as I step off the path and pursue things a little less traditional…