Two weeks after The Pirate Bay raid early December, the notorious torrent site returned online.
Instead of its traditional homepage it waved a pirate flag alongside some mysterious hints. The most intriguing part was the aes.png image at the bottom which displayed an encrypted message.
Was this secret message pointing to a pirate treasure hidden in the deep web? Did it hold the location of crucial backups that TPB needed to restore the site, or the code of Pirate Bay’s unreleased P2P browser?
As time went on the TPB started to add more hints to the site’s source, hoping that someone would solve the mystery. These pointers eventually led to the answer, first uncovered by Reddit user “dafky2000.”
“By analyzing the page source code I could see some irrelevant HTML tags that had no effect. In particular, ‘key lowercase’ with the text enclosed ‘WeAreTPB’, which was not in fact lowercase. The encryption technology was the name of the image itself – ‘aes.png’ – AES,” dafky2000 tells TF.
After guessing a few different password hashing algorithms he finally landed on the right one, SHA256. That revealed part of the answer and after a few hours of sleep dafky2000 was able to uncover the entire message.
“I did have some trouble – Initially, I was only decrypting half the URL so I knew I was on the right track. Took a break at 2am, but got some sleep to clear my head and finished it off in the morning. I love a challenge and that hit the spot.”
As it turns out, Pirate Bay’s message was little more than a URL of a YouTube video. No secret messages crucial to the site’s return, but a compilation of The Terminator’s famous line “I’ll be back.”
Like most people dafky2000 had hoped for something more. Especially because another hint that was added recently “pipe vi Makefile” suggests that there’s something TPB wants people to build.
“I was trying to solve the ‘pipe vi Makefile’ mystery so I could build whatever program the Makefile would make. Decryption seemed like the stepping stone to that goal. I was mildly disappointed I couldn’t build something but I think there might be more to that,” dafky2000 tells us.
Those who want to replicate the results can use the following bash code dafky2000 provided.
echo "JyO7wNzc8xht47QKWohfDVj6Sc2qH+X5tBCT+uetocIJcjQnp/2f1ViEBR+ty0Cz" | openssl aes-128-cbc -K $(printf wearetpb | sha256sum | head -c 32 | tr '[:lower:]' '[:upper:]') -nosalt -nopad -iv 0 -base64 -d -p
The question now is whether The Pirate Bay will indeed make a glorious return as Arnold Schwarzenegger suggests?