World News – USA – Australian mathematician helps solve the 50-year-old mystery of the Zodiac serial killer


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Melbourne mathematician Samuel Blake and two other cryptologists have been officially recognized by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for solving a 50-year-old cryptic message written by an unnamed serial killer known only as the Zodiac.

Dr. Blake worked with two other cryptologists and a Melbourne University supercomputer called Spartan to decipher the message known as the « 340 cipher » to eventually reveal its contents.

The cipher bears a distinctive circle with a cross in the middle and was published on August 8th. Sent to the San Francisco Chronicle by a man who called himself « Zodiac » November 1969. .

The correspondent killer sent letters to newspapers for several years up to 1974, including evidence that he was responsible for the deaths of at least five people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The official cracking of the 340-digit cipher offers insight into the thoughts and actions of the murderer, but does not reveal a name, as promised in separate letters to newspapers.

Dr. Blake told ABC that he had been working on a solution to the 340 cipher, which is considered one of the holy grails of cryptography, since he contacted Zodiac cryptologist David Oranchak in early 2020.

Mr. Oranchak hosts a website devoted to cracking the Zodiac ciphers and has posted several YouTube videos detailing the work he has done over 15 years to solve it.

In a statement posted on social media, Dr. Blake met the US-based Oranchak and the Brussels-based software programmer Jarl van Eycke.

« Over the year, through trial and error, we got around 650. 000 different reading directions tested by the cipher. That search came up – more or less – nothing, « he said.

« However, one of these searches resulted in a surprising combination of words: GAS CHAMBER. That such a macabre phase should emerge in a sea of ​​noise required further attention.

« From this fragment, David, Jarl van Eycke and I have revised the key and corrected a mistake that Zodiac made in his diagonal listing of the second vertical segment of the cipher.

Dr. Blake is a visiting scholar at the University of Melbourne and described how the university’s supercomputer, Spartan, solved the cipher after reading 650. 000 had processed other possible solutions.

Eventually a solution was revealed that contained a message with the phrase « GAS CHAMBER ».

Mr. Oranchak sent the proposed solution to the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Division and within a day they formally approved the solution.

In a statement released on Friday, US time, the FBI confirmed that the cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently released by « private individuals ». « 

« After 50 years of active research, this cipher has finally been solved. We now understand why it has withstood attack for so long, « wrote Dr. Blake on social media.

« The reading direction through the cipher was so obscure that it could only be found by a massive search through many candidates with highly developed software with which homophonic substitution ciphers can be efficiently solved.

« Not only were we lucky enough to find the needle in the haystack, but we were lucky enough to pick the right haystack to look for the needle. « 

Dr. Blake and his colleagues have dedicated their work to the murder victims and their families.

The Melbourne mathematician now hopes that the solution he and his colleagues uncovered will help to crack the two remaining unsolved short ciphers: one with 13 symbols and the other with 32.

« I find the Zodiac case fascinating, but I am far from being a Zodiac killer expert, » said Dr. Blake.

« It would be fantastic if this helped the investigation in some way. Now it is up to the experts to interpret the meaning of his message. « 

This service may contain material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service that is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced.

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

Zodiac Killer, Cipher, Serial Killer

World News – USA – The Australian mathematician helps solve the 50-year-old mystery of the Zodiac serial killer
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