Code-breakers crack Zodiac Killer cipher after 51 years
Bottom line: An international team of cryptographers have managed to crack a coded message from the Zodiac Killer that has remained a mystery for more than five decades. As exciting as it is that the code has finally been cracked, the solution unfortunately didn’t provide any tangible evidence that would point to the identity of the Zodiac Killer. He killed at least five victims in the late 1960s.
The coded letter in question was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969 and is known in the cryptographer community as the Z-340 due to the fact that it consists of 340 characters. Despite the best efforts of amateur and professional cryptographers and law enforcement alike, the contents of the puzzle have remained a mystery until just recently.
Software engineer David Oranchak has been tinkering with the puzzle since 2006. In a YouTube video discussing the process, Oranchak said he and mathematician Sam Blake used a piece of code-breaking software from Jarl Van Eycke called AZdecrypt after Blake became interested in transposition ciphers.
The theory was that perhaps the Zodiac Killer had rearranged the characters in the message based on a set of rules, making it harder to solve. They were correct.
One particular manipulation uncovered a few key phrases including “trying to catch me” and “or the gas chamber.” It was this tiny trail of crumbs that put the team on the right path and eventually, they were able to work out the full solution as follows.
“I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME
THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW
WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME
I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER
BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER
BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME
WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE
SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH
I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS
LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH”
The solution was submitted to the FBI, who verified the discovery late last week.