The 340 ‘cipher’ code sent by the notorious Northern California serial killer, who was known by the name “Zodiac Killer”, to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969, has been cracked by a team of cryptography experts after 51 years. The “Zodiac Killer” sent four cryptograms or cryptic messages to San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, during the 1960s and 1970s, the time period when the killer was active.
The “Zodiac Killer” used to brag that law enforcement could not track him down. He was never caught. The ‘340 cipher’, so named because it comprises 340 characters was cracked, according to CNN, by David Oranchak, a software developer in Virginia; Jarl Van Eycke, a Belgian computer programmer, and Sam Blake.
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Web designer David Oranchak, 46, initially tried to use computer programs to find a solution to the complex code in 2006.
The code did not reveal the identity of the killer but instead was a taunt to the police which reads: “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me…I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradise (sic) all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me,” the message, written in all capital letters and without any punctuation marks, AFP reported.
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In 1969, a school teacher and his wife were able to decode another similar message sent by the “Zodiac Killer”. “I like killing because it is so much fun,” it said, once again referring to the “slaves” he claimed he was collecting to serve him in the “afterlife”.
In comparison, the ‘340 cipher’ code, Oranchak and his team said, was tougher to decode. “All of us in the crypto community on the Zodiac figured the cipher had another step beyond just figuring out what letters belonged to the symbols, and that’s just what we found here,” Oranchak told AFO.
Oranchak explained in a YouTube video that the code was first read diagonally, starting from the upper-left corner and shifting one box down and two boxes to the right, and once it was read to the bottom, the same method was repeated in the opposite corner.
This particular coding system appears in a cryptography manual for the US army dating back to the 1950s, according to Oranchak.
Though the “Zodiac Killer” claimed he killed 37 people, investigators say he killed only seven people.