It was great fun for puzzle freaks while it lasted.
The ever vigilant crew at Wired magazine while meditating on the seal of the newly formed U.S. Cyber Command observed a series of numbers etched inside a gold ring on the emblem. The digits--9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a--looked like some kind of hash code. Sure enough, when checking with an unnamed source at the super secret agency, Wired was told that the numbers, if decoded, would translate into something meaningful, at least to the agency. (Click image to enlarge)
Deciding to crowd source the cracking of the code, the magazine offered the choice of a free t-shirt or a ticket to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. to the first reader who could turn the hash into plaintext.
Most readers appeared to guess at what the hash meant rather than actually trying to crack it. "All Your Base Belong To Us," suggested one reader, referring to a nonsense phrase from a video game that gained some notoriety on the Internet around the turn of the century. Another took inspiration from a famous Jean Shepherd story as their solution to the hash, ""Drink more Ovaltine." Some others, though, viewed the exercise dimly through a teabag: "There's nothing quite like a governmental agency that uses our money to waste time coming up with puzzles for us. How cute. Glad I pay my taxes so that we can have a larger standing army rather than a proper, well-regulated militia, like we're supposed to."
As it turns out, the real meaning of the hash isn't very exciting at all, unless government gobbledygook gets your adrenaline flowing. According to The Register, which took the time to decode the M5 hash, the figures in the gold ring translate into this:
"USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries."