A team of crypto enthusiasts announced on Friday that they had successfully cracked one of the coded messages sent more than 50 years ago by the “Zodiac Killer,” which terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and remains unidentified. .
The message was sent in November 1969 to the San Francisco Chronicle by the suspected serial killer, and its code consisted of a series of cryptic letters and symbols.
Detectives expected the coded message to contain the identity of the killer, who committed at least five murders in 1968 and 1969, but claimed 37 in total and inspired other serial killers.
According to the trio said to have broken the code, the message includes boasting and defiance of authorities with no real clues as to motive or identity.
It includes a message: “I hope you are having a lot of fun trying to catch me … I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to the paradice (sic) much sooner because now I have enough slaves to work for me.”
David Oranchak, a 46-year-old American web designer, took several computer programs and years of work to crack the complex code he started working on in 2006.
He was assisted by Sam Blake, an Australian mathematician, and Jarl Van Eykcke, a Belgian logistician, told the San Francisco Chronicle, which confirmed the discovery with the FBI, the federal agency in charge of the investigation.
A first message sent to California newspapers was decoded by a school teacher and his wife in 1969.
“I like to kill because it is a lot of fun,” he said, referring again to the “slaves” he claimed to collect to serve him in the afterlife.
But the code used in the first message was much simpler than that of “340 encryption”, so called because it contains 340 characters spread over 17 columns.
“All of us in the crypto community at Zodiac thought that encryption had another step beyond just figuring out which letters belonged to the symbols, and that’s what we found here,” Oranchak said.
Cipher 340 is read diagonally, starting from the upper left corner and moving down one frame and two frames to the right.
When the bottom is reached, the reader should go back to the opposite corner, the expert said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
According to him, the encryption system appears in particular in a cryptography manual for the US military dating from the 1950s.