After 51 years, a group of three hobbyist cryptographers is claiming to have cracked one of the most infamous ciphers created by the infamous Zodiac killer. In a video posted to YouTube, David Oranchak explains the processes he and two others went through to crack “The 340” cipher, which is made up of 340 symbols—some of which are English characters and others of which are cryptic marks.
“Oh my god, so this is a big one. We have a solution for the 340, and it’s real,” Oranchak says in the video. Well-known cryptographers who analyzed the video and accompanying blog posts for Motherboard said that the group’s solution at least seems plausible. Oranchak told Motherboard he has been working on solving the 340 for more than a decade.
The FBI told the website ZodiacKillerFacts.com, run by a writer named Michael Butterfield who has been studying the serial killer since the 1990s, that “On December 5, 2020, the FBI received the solution to a cipher popularly known as Z340 from a cryptologic researcher and independently verified the decryption.” The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Motherboard.
This, the group says, is the solution to the cipher:
“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 team’s crucial breakthrough came when applied mathematician, Sam Blake, came up with about 650,000 different cipher manipulations (or order in which to read them). From here, using code-breaking software designed by Jarl Van Eycke, the team’s third member, came up with three valuable clues they say helped solve the puzzle.