Try the #dragontattoo #sophospuzzle and win a Lego Mindstorm!

Filed Under: Featured

No! We're not giving away a free iPad!

Firstly, that would be weird. We've said it often enough ourselves: "There's no free iPad."

Secondly, why win an iPad when you could win a Lego Mindstorm instead?

(That's a largely rhetorical question. We know that the iPad helps you teach your children to understand the intricacies of consumer society, whilst the Mindstorm is just science-fiction-inspired frippery; that the iPad is a serious business device, whilst the Mindstorm is a frivolous electronic indulgence; and that that the iPad makes a much better drinks tray.

But you can't program the iPad to BRING you a drink, can you?)

So, we're running a two-stage competition with a Dragon Tattoo flavour.

Stage One is a simple 24-character code.

Here it is:


All you need to do is to figure out how to transform this code into a URL.

Then follow your nose to the next stage.

Stage Two is a bit tougher. It doesn't require cipher-cracking skills (though they might come in handy). Instead, a bit of lateral thinking should get you to the solution.

There are three Mindstorms to be won.

But be quick. We're giving them as Christmas presents, so time is limited.

You need to solve the puzzle before midnight on Wednesday 21 December 2011, New York time.

(To clarify that further: by 4pm on Wednesday in Sydney, by 5am Wednesday in the UK, and by 7pm on Tuesday in Hawaii.)

Watch out for the hashtag #sophospuzzle on Twitter, or email for hints.

List of successful puzzlers at midnight New York time

All times follow RFC 3339 and are in Zulu time, or UTC (almost, but not quite, the same as GMT). That makes comparison really handy, because the first answers arrived just after midnight (00:00).

I have used Twitter handles where I know them; first names and last initial where I don't know or am not sure. If you'd like your entry changed, or your full name published, just let me know!

  1. 2011-12-20T00:07Z John J
  2. 2011-12-20T00:07Z @colinmartin100
  3. 2011-12-20T00:57Z @spcavanaugh
  4. 2011-12-20T01:07Z @phihag
  5. 2011-12-20T01:08Z @dcerar
  6. 2011-12-20T01:26Z Ian C
  7. 2011-12-20T01:29Z @0stracon
  8. 2011-12-20T02:10Z @diddledan
  9. 2011-12-20T02:32Z @digital4rensics
  10. 2011-12-20T03:43Z Vampaerus
  11. 2011-12-20T03:50Z @timelessp
  12. 2011-12-20T05:03Z Adam J
  13. 2011-12-20T06:29Z Bashar E
  14. 2011-12-20T06:38Z Christopher B
  15. 2011-12-20T06:48Z David D
  16. 2011-12-20T06:50Z Toby H
  17. 2011-12-20T06:53Z @ezs
  18. 2011-12-20T07:32Z Ben K
  19. 2011-12-20T08:40Z Mike S
  20. 2011-12-20T08:47Z @siudauding
  21. 2011-12-20T09:00Z Alexander M
  22. 2011-12-20T09:11Z Joshua G
  23. 2011-12-20T09:16Z @trapflag
  24. 2011-12-20T09:27Z Michael D
  25. 2011-12-20T09:44Z Cryxia
  26. 2011-12-20T09:48Z Iulia O
  27. 2011-12-20T10:06Z @james_a_tanner
  28. 2011-12-20T11:15Z @elec08215
  29. 2011-12-20T11:32Z @jeamland
  30. 2011-12-20T11:56Z @philkernick
  31. 2011-12-20T12:30Z @jgrahamc
  32. 2011-12-20T12:51Z Christian R
  33. 2011-12-20T13:09Z Billy M
  34. 2011-12-20T17:30Z John P
  35. 2011-12-20T17:30Z Charles K
  36. 2011-12-20T17:31Z Adnan B
  37. 2011-12-20T17:31Z Daniel B
  38. 2011-12-20T18:25Z @randomly9
  39. 2011-12-20T18:32Z Nicola vT
  40. 2011-12-20T18:35Z Anthony B
  41. 2011-12-20T18:36Z @misterbking
  42. 2011-12-20T18:51Z Kevin V
  43. 2011-12-20T18:53Z Michael S
  44. 2011-12-20T18:59Z Alan S
  45. 2011-12-20T19:07Z Javier T
  46. 2011-12-20T19:07Z Nick N
  47. 2011-12-20T19:07Z @realbelhazur
  48. 2011-12-20T19:22Z Trafan
  49. 2011-12-20T19:40Z Sam N
  50. 2011-12-20T20:03Z John S
  51. 2011-12-20T20:14Z Timo H
  52. 2011-12-20T20:36Z Andrew H
  53. 2011-12-20T20:51Z Dmitry K
  54. 2011-12-20T21:45Z @nursemo06
  55. 2011-12-20T21:50Z Shane K
  56. 2011-12-20T22:42Z Joel E
  57. 2011-12-20T22:48Z Jorrit K
  58. 2011-12-20T22:55Z Adam O
  59. 2011-12-20T23:17Z Bartosz L
  60. 2011-12-20T23:31Z @keldr1n
  61. 2011-12-21T00:05Z Jeff J
  62. 2011-12-21T00:49Z Leslie F
  63. 2011-12-21T02:20Z Fredrik G
  64. 2011-12-21T03:03Z James L
  65. 2011-12-21T04:22Z @wanderingglitch
  66. 2011-12-21T04:27Z @matonis
  67. 2011-12-21T04:40Z jjo
  68. 2011-12-21T04:43Z Greg E
  69. 2011-12-21T04:45Z Hieros O
  70. 2011-12-21T04:50Z Andrew W
  71. 2011-12-21T04:51Z @dahla
  72. 2011-12-21T04:55Z Grant S

To John J, who appears to be from Colorado, "Well done!"

To @colinmartin100, who appears to be from somewhere else, "So close. Just 27 seconds from first to second place. Should have listened to the Mrs, eh?"

To Grant S, who's a fellow Aussie relaxing on the longest day of the year, "Cutting things a bit fine, wouldn't you say?"

To everyone who tried, thanks for taking part. And to our enthusiastic Twitterers, thanks for helping others without spoiling the fun.


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21 Responses to Try the #dragontattoo #sophospuzzle and win a Lego Mindstorm!

  1. Kali Pederson · 1353 days ago

    No freaking clue as to what to do with =ImYndmbn1ieiBnLmJWdjJmZ. However, a Lego mindstorm is far cooler than an iPad a) because it's Lego! b) Everyone has an ipad c) A Lego Mindstorm will show your inner geekness d) It would show your independence and creativity because you did not fall into being another consumer sheeple that mass marketing has sucked you into (obviously you wore your tin foil hat)! very cool guys! Just wish I had a clue to have a chance.

  2. Chuck Summers · 1353 days ago

    Ditto. I left my decoder ring in the 60's, and it isn't a simple letter substitution cipher. Also, email bounced to

  3. Sharon Bartley · 1353 days ago

    Do what? with the what? I guess I'm excluded from the contest because I have no idea what to do. Bummer. Lego is awesome!

  4. Carri · 1353 days ago

    Why 7 pm TUESDAY in Hawaii? Why not 7 pm WEDNESDAY in Hawaii?

    • Paul Ducklin · 1353 days ago

      Because when it's 7pm on Tuesday in Hawaii, it's already midnight on Wednesday in New York...and the contest closes at midnight _New York time_ (UTC-5) on the morning of Wednesday 21 December 2011.

  5. Kelso · 1353 days ago

    a bit of creative googling gets you the second page, however they've done clever and requested the name of the cipher used in stage 1. so much for my google-fu.

  6. Bassec · 1353 days ago

    The email address doesn't work!

  7. Gbz · 1353 days ago

    Got to Stage 2... Wasn't all that difficult.

    You don't want to see Stage 2. :(

  8. Robert · 1353 days ago

    I give up....

  9. Do I need special software to solve this puzzle?

    Also, your hashtag URL does NOT work on mobiles :(

    • Paul Ducklin · 1353 days ago

      Don't use a mobile, then :-)

      Or go to:

      ...and take it from there.

      There are some software hints on Twitter now. Some have used Python. Others have used a mixture of Unixy tools. You'll probably find sed or vi handy, too. (A modern vi that can edit binary files - very handy.)

  10. Lasse · 1352 days ago

    Can you now reveal answers to those puzzles?

  11. Sizzle69 · 1352 days ago

    Godammit! Just cracked the first one to find that the competition has ended and the URL doesn't work anymore...... providing I got it right, that is.

    Damn you Sophos and damn your haircut!

    • Paul Ducklin · 1351 days ago

      The page still works fine. It now points out that the contest is closed, but the link to stage two of the puzzle is still there, so you can download and solve it.

      If you are getting a 404, I suspect you have the wrong URL :-)

      • Sizzle69 · 1351 days ago

        Ah yeah, got it now! I got it right, just not 100% right......99.9% I would say ;0)

  12. MikeG · 1350 days ago

    How about the answers for those of us that did not have a clue how to even approach the 1st step (or have access to any of the languages/tools identified above)??

  13. Scott · 1350 days ago

    The answer explained:

    I wish my brain worked like that. wow.

  14. Were the winners announced?

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog