# “Tell your friends” - a mysterious email that landed in my inbox [Part 1 of 6]

I found the following email in my inbox:

I almost disregarded this as spam at first but further investigation revealed a curious puzzle. The web page has the following appearance:

(I am security conscious and opened the page in a VM for safety.)

Here is the website's source code (line numbers added by myself):

 1  <head><title>The Game is On</title></head>
2  <!-- The toast is close. The key is long, and on this page. -->
3  TELO SY RF IDAXF BVIHUIX LXAG
4  <br />Only the French would truly understand.
5  <br />&nbsp;
6  <br />Poor Mr. Bellaso.
7  <table width=30 height=30>
8  <tr>
9  <td width=10><center>N</center></td>
10  <td width=10><center>O</center></td>
11  <td width=10><center>P</center></td>
12  </tr>
13  <tr>
14  <td width=10><center>O</center></td>
15  <td width=10><center>P</center></td>
16  <td width=10><center>Q</center></td>
17  </tr>
18  <tr>
19  <td width=10><center>P</center></td>
20  <td width=10><center>Q</center></td>
21  <td width=10><center>R</center></td>
22  </tr>
23  </table>
24  <br />&nbsp;
25  <br />&nbsp;
26  <center>me@noreallyitis.me</center>
27  <br />&nbsp;
28  <br />&nbsp;
29  <br />6 levels deep.
30  <br /><center>Current Payout: <b>0.00765 BTC</b></center>
31  <br /><center>Contribute to the winnings: 18zFNTrjYcGt6N6uw58KqFUXE5WeaTtUsc</center>
32  <br />&nbsp;
33  <br />&nbsp;
34  <br />&nbsp;
35  <br />&nbsp;
36  <br />&nbsp;
37  <br />&nbsp;
38  <br />&nbsp;
39  <br />&nbsp;
40  <br />&nbsp;
41  <br />&nbsp;
42  <br />&nbsp;
43  <br />&nbsp;
44  <br />&nbsp;
45  <br />&nbsp;
46  <br />&nbsp;
47  <br />&nbsp;
48  <br />&nbsp;
49  <br />&nbsp;
50  <br />&nbsp;
51  <br />&nbsp;
52  <br />&nbsp;
53  <br />&nbsp;
54  <br />&nbsp;
55  <br />&nbsp;
56  <br />&nbsp;
57  <br />&nbsp;
58  <br />&nbsp;
59  <br />&nbsp;
60  <br />&nbsp;
61  <br />&nbsp;
62  <br />&nbsp;
63  <br />&nbsp;
64  <br />&nbsp;
65  <br />&nbsp;
66  <br />&nbsp;
67  <br />&nbsp;
68  <br />&nbsp;
69  <br />&nbsp;
70  <br />&nbsp;
71  <br />&nbsp;
72  <br />&nbsp;
73  <a href="/tabula-recta">.</a>
74  <!-- The key is in clue -->


I tried using ROT13 on the message along the top, but no transpositions seemed to produce meaningful English or French (granted, I don't speak French, but I could probably recognize words that sounded French :P).

One possible clue I was able to come up with: Bellaso was an Italian cryptologist.

The Help Center requires that I mention that:

• this puzzle is not my own
• I am not aware that an answer exists yet for the puzzle
• I'm still seeing a slightly different comment on line 2 of the source code. (Not that it really matters.) – YowE3K Aug 10 '16 at 22:30
• And I also see two extra lines before Poor Mr. Bellaso. - <br />I didn't mean for this to be so difficult. Keep it up. More hints are there. <br />&nbsp; – YowE3K Aug 10 '16 at 22:32
• Can you check where the email actually originated? (On gmail you can use the <> Show original option, I don't know about on other clients.) It looks like noreallyitis.me has "browntech.space" in its MX record. – 2012rcampion Aug 10 '16 at 23:45
• Both domains are registered through namecheap to a 'Donald Brown'. The former (noreallyitis.me) looks like it points to a raspberry pi at someone's home IP address; the latter (browntech.space) looks like it points to an Amazon cloud server. – 2012rcampion Aug 11 '16 at 0:18

Upon examining the site more closely, I noticed two things:

1. There was a hidden link to a page with a Tabula Recta:

N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M
O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N
P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P
R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q
S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R
T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S
U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T
V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U
W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V
X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W
Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X
Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A
C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B
D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C
E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D
F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E
G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F
H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G
I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H
J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I
K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J
L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K
M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L
2. There was a comment as a hint on the page:

The key is in the clue

And we have a solution!

SEND ME AN EMAIL SUBJECT EZPZ

Only the French would truly understand.:

I'm honestly not sure. Perhaps hinting on some unique French trait or cultural part?
Update: This is quite literally the key towards the cipher. Exactly as it is here.

NOP / OPQ / PQR:

Seems to be hinting towards the Tabula Recta above.

Poor Mr. Bellaso:

As the Vigenere cipher was actually invented by our dear friend Bellaso, but mis-attributed to Vigenere, who made a similar cipher. Perhaps this clues to using the Vigenere cipher on the Tabula?
Update: It is.

6 levels deep.:

It seems strange that this is so far from the rest of the text. Maybe this isn't part of the puzzle? If it is, maybe the ciphertext was encoded six times? Maybe this puzzle has more than one part?

• I think it's a Keyed Vigenére Cipher but I still don't know the passphrase. – Engineer Toast Aug 10 '16 at 21:10
• @EngineerToast It's implied in whatever only the French would truly understand, but I've tried every word there, so it's not literal... – Kaz Wolfe Aug 10 '16 at 21:28
• The comment actually says The key is in clue rather than The key is in the clue. There is also another comment saying The (engineer) toast is close. The key is long, and on this page. Sorry, Byte – YowE3K Aug 10 '16 at 21:48
• French comment is likely an additional reference to Vigenère. Did anyone email the puzzle maker? – Reibello Aug 11 '16 at 3:34
• @Reibello I did. Will post results and stuff once all is done. – Kaz Wolfe Aug 11 '16 at 3:36