back to article Amateur claims crack of final Zodiac Killer cipher

An amateur codebreaker claims to have deciphering the final encrypted message of the infamous Zodiac killer. However there's no general agreement that the answer is correct. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who preyed on couples in Northern California in the years between 1968 and 1970. Of his seven confirmed victims, …


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  1. doranchak

    It's a hoax

    This story needs to stop spreading around. Corey's solution is one of many hoaxes and delusions that surround the Zodiac Killer case. Here is my analysis of Corey's solution which clearly demonstrates why it is a hoax:

    1. Gleb
      Thumb Up

      Well spotted

      Wow, I can't believe media is having a field day with this. Cool job. Just add a screenshot to integersequences database showing that this pattern is at least not known.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is not a hoax

      It's simply an attempt at a solution.

  2. Lee Dowling Silver badge




    From TFA:

    "police ... indicated that the killing was connected to the U.S Virgin Islands."

    "Starliper believed that the “340” of the 340 cipher was significant," (it's the area code for the Virgin Islands - fair enough)

    "This is where it gets even creepier. 3+4+0=7. Right. So you get 7+0=7. 707...707 are the area codes for Vallejo, Napa, and Solano. So I figured, why not start this with Caesar code using 3,4.”

    WOOP WOOP WOOP! Mathematician's junk alert! Random assertion based on silly patterns that you can find BILLIONS of if you look. Hey, did you know, you can find messages from the devil if you play your records backwards and the Bible has codes in it?!

    "Starliper extracted symbols and changed them to letters they ****could**** correspond with."

    To quote Scooby: Ruh-roh.

    "After everything symbolic had been interpreted alphabetically, he started applying reverse Caesar shifts. He found the first two letters to be “K” and “I”. “What are the next two going to be? right? I figure, what’s the first word he’s going to throw in there? Kill,”

    OMG please, send this kid to school. So you basically MADE it be L and L and made up whatever pattern you liked.

    "For the first few lines, the pattern remained constant, but it changed beyond that. He said he was able to figure out the non-patterned series that by finding “similarities in the numerical sequence.”

    Translation: He made it fit a pattern he wanted it to.


    So apart from the bad text, bad spelling, random words, complete gibberish, complete guesswork whenever it looks like it's going wrong, rubbish patterns, pre-supposed ideas, it's not bad right? Except the Zodiac actually had a reputation and history of pretty well structured messages and codes and nothing like the mistakes in this one (which, if they were encoded merely incorrectly, would have resulted in gibberish rather than a lovely pattern from the next word)

    "Along with a lack of progress contacting Solano, Vallejo, and Napa counties, Starliper has contacted the San Francisco Cold Case Unit and Special Investigative Unit without response.

    He even sent the code to a cryptographer, who, after looking over the solution, said that it appeared “not valid,” according to Starliper."

    Hint: The cryptographer and all those other people do this for a living, and have their works tested in courts.

    Complete and utter fail, Register - how dare you stoop to reciting this Daily Mail trash?

    1. sabba


      ...I don't have a problem with The Reg rehashing the Mail. It provides significant entertainment value if only via the subsequent comment threads trashing it. But then, I am easily pleased.

    2. Peter Rathlev

      It's fun reading the comments!

      I agree with sabba; if El Reg had themselves pointed us to all the people proving Starlicker blatantly wrong it would only be half as funny. That would still rather funny of course.

    3. Naughtyhorse

      To quote Scooby: Ruh-roh.

      new kbd pls :-)

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Daily Mail?


    1. Ilgaz

      They joke

      I really think The Register is joking releasing this story since they are British (e.g. not CNET) and they openly suggest reading Daily Mail.

  4. Tchou
    IT Angle

    In other words...

    ... nothing's happening in IT today.

    1. Ammaross Danan


      "claims to have deciphering [sic] the final"

      "only one of which has ever [sic] been decrypted."

      See? Plenty to do with IT. Don't rely soley on your spell checker for your article. Try proof-reading it once in a while.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      IT is a SMART Jungle teeming with Exotic Life Phorms? :-)..... XPerimenting in Code

      Oh, I wouldn't say that, Tchou, it is just that you are not tuned in to the right wavelength embedding truth in corrupt channels for purging of viral infections and dodgy infestations.There is a hell of a lot going on, and all of the time, too ......

    3. Ilgaz

      better than IT stories of season

      Would you prefer AMD claiming Avatar quality (the movie!) graphics on a cheap console chip instead? Or usual patent war news which everyone claims to have invented everything?

  5. xyz Silver badge

    Just don't do a... on Google for amateur (spelt amature) and crack from your office PC. You'll be out the door pronto.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Why would you send me to the Daily Mail in order to get any further info? Why? What did I ever do to you?

  7. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Oh Dear

    If the code was a substitution/Caesar cipher, then it would have been cracked years ago by frequency analysis techniques. It's not like it isn't one of the world's best known undecoded messages.

    I also find it extremely unlikely that the encoded message would contain the 'stream of consciousness' type drivel as proposed, complete with spelling and grammatical errors, omissions of letters etc., given that the killer would then have had to sit down and painstakingly encode the message and write out the elaborate and neatly ordered symbols involved.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Look, if he was dying he wouldn't be bothered to carve argh into the wall!"

  8. Doug Glass

    Right or Wrong?

    How are you going to prove either? His code-breaking is just as valid as anybody elses unless you have the actual cypher and well, nobody does.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      As pointed out above, he doesn't use a fixed shift for the Caesar cipher, each symbol in his 'solution' is abitrarily assigned a letter, then shifted an arbitrary number of characters. He provides a rationalisation for the first THREE characters, which is flimsy to say the least. He also misses out symbols, and the shifts he DOES provide are in places not those which would give the solution he gives.

      In other words, he came up with an arbitrary solution to the cipher, then filled in a randomly shifting Caesar cipher to shift it to arbitrary letters which he then arbitrarily assigned to the symbols in the original cipher. Note also that this has been done to match the symbols to letters that look like the symbols. In the previously solved ciphers, the substitutions were not related in this way.

      By 'solving' the cipher in this manner, you could in fact assign to the solution any text of approximately the same length as the cipher.

      1. Peter Rathlev

        @Loyal Commenter

        Not only that, he apparently couldn't even get this attempt at a Vigenere-ish solution right, even though it's hard not to get right as you point out. According to doranchak's comment in the top of the stack (or bottom, depending of preference) the shifts mentioned on his notes would not yield the result he proposes.

    2. Gleb

      logic fail

      If choose to interpret everything you post as nonsense, does it make everything you post nonsense? By your admission...

    3. Ilgaz


      Cryptology is pure mathematics so it is plain science. If you can prove your solution, it is right. If you can't, it is wrong. It doesn't matter what kind of eccentric genius solution you found, it should be mathematically proven.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        that's true

        or at least it was about 350 years ago

        these days not so much (google fermat's last)

        1. Ilgaz

          or N=NP ?

          Your example doesn't fit to what I am saying. Just because it is unsolvable, it isn't crypto. If you claim you solved Fermat, they will also ask how and the answer should be still math. You can be bad in expressing things in math (like Einstein), that time, you explain it to a mathematician and he/she does it for you.

          BTW, prime numbers, N=NP thing is also used in cryptology since they aren't solvable using current tech.

  9. earlydog1

    Zodiac Cipher

    This was a horrible time in my life as I went to school with one of the victims and had a friend whose sister was a victim. My friend and I used to go to one of the areas at Lake Berryessa and we used to see the Zodiacs sign, like graffiti, ever so often around the lake. I always believed this is where he was from and he would prey on innocent victims. As for cracking the code, there are many who believe this was just garble he used to confuse the Police. I think we should put this story to rest and may all the victims RIP.

    1. Cris E

      Oh, that can't be it...

      For one thing it's way more than 340 characters. But really, what sort of killer writes a third party retrospective like that? You're as bad as the guy in the article.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    You know a story is dodgy when the Daily Mail is your source.

    Where's me tombstone icon gone?

  11. Allan George Dyer

    But isn't there only one year...

    between 1968 and 1970?

  12. Elmer Phud

    Oh, no!

    Folks, I think we have the next Dan Brown 'Book'.

    but no doubt the 'authorities' will get to gether to try and suppress the TRUTH!!!

    (not allowed to put in 'truth' without using caps and at least three exclamation marks)

    1. Naughtyhorse

      you mean....

      zodiac was the sprog of god's sprog???


  13. Anonymous Coward

    I got all excited for a moment...

    ...But then realised the solve was a poor one. The source quoted by the Mail in turn quotes the guy as saying that he had to change the key a few times, after guessing what the symbols represented... ie Fudged the solution.

  14. lovelyshady

    More important

    I think we're missing the point here people....Katie Price has a new hairstyle...

  15. bugalugs

    bah and hiss

    to the malicious down-voter of most above

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Maybe the best crypto code ...

    ... is one that confuses logic with the illogical?

    Computers won't crack that will they?

  17. Darkwolf

    Simple solution

    Perhaps the zodiac killer used a cylinder when encrypitng.

    1. wrap a 1/4 inch ribbon around a cylinderical object.

    2. write out message in plain text.

    3. unwrap ribbon

    4. cut ribbon every 17 letters

    5. line up each strip under each other.

    6. Decide what symbol you want for each letter and then convert each letter to symbol

    7. Copy only the codes to the paper you send out

    Doing this, if you were to use frequency analysis you would end up with gibberish, so you must do the following:

    1. Use frequency analysis to get the "plain text" which would look like gibberish

    2. Take this "plain text" paper and cut into strips

    3. wrap it around a cylinder.

    Of course for this to work, you need to know the diameter of the original cylinder, else you just end up with givverish.

    1. Trygve Henriksen


      That's called a Transposition Cypher, and has been known since Roman times.

      Also, not all frequency analysis require the symbols to be in the right place to yield correct answers.

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