So the time has come around again where the Internet has reminded me of the Key Lime Pie Internet Mystery. You’ve likely found it on Reddit.
It relates to a phenomena of SPAM comments on the Internet, on random websites, seemingly about key lime pie (pictured), sentences eventually devolving into pornographic proportions of nonsense. The thing is, that while a spambot may be to blame, it’s difficult to explain why they would be advertising pie of all things, and why they would keep this up for over a decade.
I’ve investigated this some time ago and found it to be an encryption scheme, probably used for some deep web style illegal internet based exchange of messages. I believe a Stargate episode long ago implied that the CIA uses this sort of thing as well on occasion. Who knows what the reality is, but it’s true that things are often best hidden in plain sight, as demonstrated by the number of people and amount of time wasted on this mystery, yielding little or nothing public.
What frustrates me is that despite some people knowing the nature of this stuff, it keeps being perpetuated as a “mystery” — because of course something instantly ceases to be interesting as soon as you have explained it. So people just don’t get to know the truth. I think even my reply to the Reddit got taken down. Well, I can try and fix it again on here and hopefully someone finds this page in their research.
So, what is the key to understanding the nonsensical messages regarding key lime pie? It is an encryption technique called steganography.
You may have noticed that the comments regarding key lime pie do not look like code. They look like at least semi-sensible sentences. This is the key component of steganography, like the wiki says: “Steganography is the practice of concealing a file, message, image, or video within another file, message, image, or video”. In other words, the hidden messages are hidden within these sentences. They are encoded by the means of… the order of words, the length of particular words, the punctuation and similar. Things that a human reader might easily glance over while reading a message.
After all, we all know what SPAM looks like. We know bots tend to include semi-sensible text into their messages to defeat automated anti-SPAM protection. These types of messages are normal… right? Nobody would suspect them to hold meaning. As said however, the meaning is not in the text itself, it’s in the things we assume are random.
One of the downsides of steganography, like every other form of encryption, is that besides the message itself, it also requires an encryption key of some kind. Let’s take an easier example, an ancient roman syctale:
The use of the encryption device isn’t difficult to figure out form just looking at it. You take a stick, wrap a strap of paper on it and then write your message horizontally across the strip. When you unwrap your paper strap, the letters will appear to be giberish until you wrap them around the same kind of stick again. In this case, the strap of paper is the encrypted message and the width of the stick is the key. Without a stick of the same width, the message does not come together again.
Giving every commander the same kind of wooden stick might have worked well in ancient times, before the invention of the ruler and standardized measuring units. But these days, it would take very little time to figure out and decode. So modern encryption schemes use a key that keeps changing.
Back to the key lime pie example, the SPAM comments posted in various internet sites are clearly the encrypted messages, but what is the key? Where would a group of people want to post a key that keeps changing over time, that would be anonymously accessible to everyone, but arouse no suspicion? The answer is Facebook.
Of course, because in this case the encryption scheme is steganography, the key is the original text which is modulated to generate the encrypted messages. In layman’s terms, to encrypt a message, you could take an original message which is used as a key, split it down to segments of different length, then make each segment represent a letter of your message. Put the gibberish back together in the order of your characters in your message and you’ve successfully encrypted your hidden message.
Let’s try doing that together. Let’s take the latest Facebook post by our friend Jake Carson, and paste it into a spreadsheet. Then, let’s take each line and assign a character to it. I’m going with the english alphabet, plus a space and I’ve skipped the lines that are only dots. I’ve trimmed off the remaining messages. We end up with a key table like this.
Now let’s encode our message with it. I’m going with “hello world”:
..And We Hate To Sound Like A Broken Record But Here Is A Key Lime Pie For Our Buddy “Maurice White”, Founder Of The Great Group “Earth, Wind and Fire”!..Rest In Peace Dude.…Can’t Get Enough Of That Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Pie. Can’t Get Enough Of That Key Lime Pie Or I’ll Just Cry Until I Die, I Don’t Know Why I Just Love My Key Lime Pies!….are so wild about him and his Famous Cheese Burgers and Key Lime Pies, are so wild about him and his Famous Cheese Burgers and Key Lime Pies,His Drop Dead Gorgeous Wife “Miss Anita” together in they’re Historic Key..Miss Anita And ’Chef ‘Captain Kutchie Pelaez’s Key West-Kutcharitaville Key Lime Pie Factory And Cafe’, “Where Eating Is A Pleasure And Cooking Is An Art”….. Hell, “Chef Kutchie Pelaez” Has More Talent In His Toe-Nail Clippings Than All The Others Have In Their Entire Bodies!..Figure!!!!!!!….His Drop Dead Gorgeous Wife “Miss Anita” together in they’re Historic Key Your Time in They’re Little “Key West Island” near the Biltmore Estate are so wild about him and his Famous Cheese Burgers and Key Lime Pies, …Kobe Bryant May Be Retiring From Basket Ball But Captain Kutchie’s Is Still His Pie Of Choice!…
Does this read as something familiar? The reason why some of these texts are all capitals whereas some of them aren’t is mainly because if you check the Facebook post, the segments added in the later posts do not have all capital letters.
But now that you have the encrypted message, if you go back to the key table and find the individual segments, you can reconstruct the original message “hello world”.
But this is just an example, the actual encryption scheme probably doesn’t use the alphabet, they probably encrypt their messages with something else and then use that, to determine which segments to use in the text. The original text is more than 200 individual lines and likely the lines with just the dots mean something too. But for me at this point the mystery is solved. If you really want to know what the messages say, you’re going to have to fiddle with it some more after this point. Just remember to use the latest key posted on Facebook at the same time as the message you are decrypting. 🙂
As for why the text is about key lime pies in particular? Well, it needed to be something mundane that would not arouse suspicion or identify the author, likely the programmer of the encryption tool just googled “key” and eventually arrived at an ad for key lime pie, which they copied. When they realized over time that they need more lines for a more complex key, they just padded it with nonsense from a porn site, about a woman named the same way as Captain Kutchie’s wife, for the lulz. Likely authored lines of nonsense to help combine these two himself.
By the way, would be glad to answer any questions you might have, just post them in the comments.
Also, enjoy your pie. 🙂
The infamous “Captain Kutchie Pelaez”.! That’s it!! I just got it!…It just popped into my head, right-out of the blue!
I can’t believe that we have all been so stupid for the past 20 or so years about something that was right in front of our noses. Elder, you hit the nail on the head! Can’t you all see it?..Elder called the mystery key lime pie man “The Infamous Captain Kutchie Pelaez”. Can all of you Morons see it now? It’s just Brilliant, just Brilliant Elder. Elder called Kutchie Pelaez…..”The INfamous Captain Kutchie Pelaez”!!!..INFAMOUS! That’s It!!! INFAMOUS, INFAMOUS Means
More than FAMOUS!
Captain Kutchie Pelaez is MORE than FAMOUS, He’s more than famous, he is INFAMOUS! And that’s pretty DAMN SMART if you ask me. HELL, that’s “INSMART”. Captain Kutchie Pelaez is more than FAMOUS, Captain Kutchie Pelaez is MORE THAN SMART!….Pardon all the dots, no they’re not some kind of secret code or anything that I know of.
The One really Big Thing that none of these crazy posts ever comments about are The Million’s of Dollars that the Infamous Captain Kutchie Pelaez gives away to his lucky Prime Rib eaters every month. We usually only hear about his famous cheese burgers in paradise but the man’s Prime Ribs in Swamp Water are the best thing that I have ever put in my mouth! The finest Prime Ribs this side of Heaven, they will melt in your mouth. Our whole family goes over to Kutcharitaville at least twice a week for Captain Kutchie’s amazing Prime Ribs. Also we can enter the contest for the monthly million dollar give away every month. My cousin won a million dollars last year. His wife won a new Jaguar car
two months later. I won a car before Christmas and you talk about nice. It was INNICE!…that means it was more than nice.
Y’all keep eating at Captain Kutchie’s and keep you’re fingers crossed whenever you enjoy Kutchie’s World Famous Roast Prime Ribs of Beef and Key Lime Pie and just maybe, if you’re lucky you might win yourself a cool Million Dollars!
Like Chef Captain Kutchie Pelaez of The World Famous Kutchie’s Key West Kutcharitaville always used too say was “Size really does Matter cuze nobody really want’s a small Burrito! The Captain Kutchie also used too say is we’ve been smoken the Good Stuff since 1976 and for you’d too Keep the Faith Babbie’s!
My husband Stan and me we’re told by Captain Kutchie himself just last month that he had been thinking about wrapping apple wood smoked bacon all around his world famous Prime Ribs before roasting them. All of a sudden Stan blurts out What the Fuck are you attempting too do too the Finest Prime Ribs Ever? After a little while and giving the idea quite a bit of though it started too sound like a Delicious Thought too the both of us and we wished Captain Kutchie good luck with his latest endeavors. Please tell everyone that you guys know and for them too tell everyone that they know to do likewise and for everyone too just get Online and lets see once and for all, just what everyone thinks about Captain Kutchie Pelaez’s Big New Idea’s about His World Famous Prime Ribs of Beef. We are quite sure that Yankee Jack will be chiming in on Kutchie’s New Big Idea.
Chewbacca Bye Bye, Keep the Faith Baby!
Will the Royal Baby win The Kentucky Derby?
Better Yet, Who really Gives a Shit?
That Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) NY, Rag Head llhan Omar (D) Minn, Alex Ocasio-Horetez (D) NY, Ayanna Lesbo Pressley (D) Mass.., Rashida Tlaib (D) Mich., Al Green (D) Tx., Pocahantas Vermont Tribe with Bernie Sanders, Nervous Nancy Cookville Calf., Rachel Madnow (MSNBC), Robert De Negro (NY), Shifty Schiff Cookvill Calf., El Chapo, Bozo O’ Rourke (Who Cares)., Maxine Impeach Waters Cookville Calf., Woopi Goldbrick (ABC)., Joy Blowhard (ABC)., Rainny Hostin (ABC)., Juan Williams (FOX NEWS)., Adoff Hilter (HELL)., Hell-They’re All really some kind of Commie’s ? Impeach Them NOW!!! Let’s Send them all to the moon for the next 50 Years!
What would Chef Captain Kutchie Pelaez Say?
Well, He would probably say something like “No Soup For You!!!”. “Come Back 50 years”. Or something like for all those “Politicos” “Stay Away From Those Manholes” and he would say “Don’t Get None On Ya!”.
This here is a key, posted to a random website that can be found to contain the keyword “Key lime pie” somewhere on it.
It seems that keeping the stuff on Facebook turned out to be too gamey, so they moved to just spamming it onto sites you can find using Google. You can tell that it’s a key by the point that it’s the same on every site.
Also, thank you original author, for letting me know the dots mean nothing. 😉 Now I only have to figure out if this was deliberately misleading or not.
I like your idea but I don’t think you’re right. I think the encryption works differently to your hello world example. There are a few other possibilities.
In my eyes, the important pieces are the capitals and the word lengths.
Firstly, capitals could mean that the word should be included while the lowercase words should be ignored.
The capital letter may also be important, as it may be used to create the encryption key.
Then the word length is also important. The word lengths combined may actually create the encrypted string.
It could be a combination of these or vice versa.
Finally, I think there is a possibility that the full stops are used as some sort of padding or special character like a new line or some kind of segmenting.
You might use the capital letters to create the encryption key, then use the key to decrypt the lengths of each word with some encryption algorithm. I’m not aware of any algorithms that produce number only encrypted strings though. I’m no expert on the topic by far though.
It could also be that the words are simply aliases for real terms. It’s not hard to believe since Key Lime Pie could very well be a hidden term for underage girl while Kutchie-whatever is an alias for the trafficker. I could almost see it as a bit of a newsletter. I have a strong feeling that this is connected to underage sex trafficking and should be investigated by the proper authorities.
What doesn’t make sense to me is the why. Why bother? If they’re smart enough to come up with this kind of system, why bother when you could simply use TOR to access a hidden onion service and encrypt all of your messages using tried and tested encryption algorithms?
Anyway, I don’t have the answers, just theories and ideas. I think your article is spot on and well written. I’d be very interested to see if anyone can crack the code but I don’t have the time to even bother.
I realised that it’s probably the word length that creates the encryption key and then the capitals that are the encrypted string.
Thanks for your answer. Like I kinda hinted in my blog, for me only realising that this is a form of stenography is enough (and is far more than what most people I’ve seen post on this subject have figured out). I find the actual decryption to be the somewhat tedious part of the task, but if I were ever stuck in a place with too much time on my hands it would certainly be a worthy challenge. I do not believe however that the words hold any real meaning, not only has that been debated to death on Reddit, but it’s pretty clear that the encryption key is an ad found online, that has been padded out by a human operator with nonsense from a porn site over the years. Knowing that shady programmers are sometimes perverts, this part requires no decryption. 🙂
I think it would be very cool if someone did try to decode it and was willing to openly publish the results — I suspect that the current users of this encryption method are using a piece of software the original author of which is long gone (and that they have no idea over how it actually works) and if anyone has found out how to decrypt the message, they profit from it in some way and are therefore unwilling to share the results. It would be super interesting to know what these messages have been hiding all this time (but knowing the Internet it’s probably links to some illegal type of porn or something).
In regard to your question about “why bother”. It’s obvious that stenography employed by a human operator can be worlds more powerful in terms of encryption to anything obvious and automated like TOR. Usually when intelligence agencies are quiet about something it means they have a backdoor to disarm it and since they’ve been relatively quiet about TOR other than some voiced concerns regarding the Tails linux distribution, I think it’s fair to say TOR doesn’t grant you any real protection if you’re doing something you don’t want your government to know about. If appropriate precautions are taken, an ingenious human-powered encryption scheme is always better than the automated stuff, simply because as of right now, bots don’t have the human smarts yet. But as far as the particular users are concerned in this case, like I said I suspect that this is just another piece of software for someone. There is no other reason why the algorithm would remain largely unchanged all this time if this was not the case.
For what it’s worth, some security companies have been using these types of methods to find recruits — decode the message and you got the job. It could just be that, but then again given the involvement of porn, maybe not. I’ve also decoded stuff used by terrorists before and this doesn’t look like something they would use either, because terrorists would not rely on a difficult to obtain piece of software for decryption. So I guess for now it remains a minor mystery. 🙂
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