Zodiac-TV1-bar

The first episode of the new HISTORY TV series about the Zodiac Killer has aired. It announced the biggest break-through in cryptology in the last 50 years.

A TV series, The Hunt For The Zodiac Killer by HISTORY, has opened up a new investigation into the mystery of crypto history’s most famous serial assassin. Episode 1 of this five-part series aired last Tuesday, November 14 at 2200 ET/PT.

Several readers have pointed out that this episode is available online here.

 

A team of codebreakers

As expected, this episode focussed on the second cryptogram the Zodiac Killer sent to the press (also known as Z340 because of the number of characters it consists of):

Zodiac-340

The other three encrypted messages of the Zodiac Killer are less interesting, as they are either solved (this is the case for the first one) or too short to be susceptible to statistic attacks. The producers of the series hired a team of five codebreaking experts to examine Z340:

  • Kevin Knight is the team leader. He is best known in the scene for having broken the Copiale cipher. I have never met him in person.

Copiale

  • Craig Bauer is a mathematics professor, editor in chief of the scientific magazine Cryptologia, crypto history expert, frequent crypto lecturer and author of the great book Unsolved (a book that is dedicated to me). The following picture was taken at the Charlotte International Cryptologic Symposium.

Bauer-Charlotte

  • David Oranchak is a well-known expert on the Zodiac Killer ciphers. The following picture was taken at the NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History a few years ago.

Oranchak

In the episode Craig says (1:40): “I’ve cracked the Zodiac 340 cipher”. Kevin adds : “This is the biggest break-through in cryptology in the last 50 years.” We’ll see over the remaining four episodes whether this is true.

 

Patterns in Z340

The five codebreakers allegedly used a “super-computer” named CARMEL to break Z340. As a computer scientist, I would have liked to know a little more about CARMEL than the documentary reveals. It is decribed as “the first of its kind programmed to think like a ruthless killer” – not necessarily an explanation of high scientific value. Allegedly, CARMEL is based on artificial intelligence. This interesting to know, as artificial intelligence doesn’t play much of a role in codebreaking so far. At least, CARMEL was intelligent enough to find the following pattern in Z340:

Zodiac-Finding

Kevin says: “There’s a one-in-a-million chance that we would see such a thing.” This is certainly a little exagerated. In addition, it’s not new. David Oranchak mentioned this pattern and a few others in his talk at the NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History.

In addition to the codebreakers, a team of forensic investigators is shown in the documentary. They focus on a suspect named Ross Sullivan –  not a new hypothesis either.

 

Reactions

My blog readers were not especially impressed by the first episode of this HISTORY documentary. For instance Bill Briere from Wyoming commented:

As expected, I couldn’t identify a single piece of new evidence in the episode — cryptologic or otherwise. Everything brought up as new discoveries, including from supercomputer Carmel’s alleged output, was stuff we already knew.

The cryptanalytical stuff was mostly taken from the presentation material that Dave himself has shown us as examples of the many interesting patterns that can be found in Z-340. The stuff that History wants you to believe was spit out by their Think-Like-a-Killer machine has actually been pointed out by Dave before (at least back to 2015, maybe earlier).

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Kommentare (12)

  1. #1 Klaus Schmeh
    17. November 2017

    Bart Wenmeckers via Facebook:
    I have yet to see the first episode so can not comment but also have similar comments as per your post from others. It is hard to know the level of bias/drama/twist applied by the history channel and I am sure they will drag it out for all it is worth. The crypto team are all well known and capable experts. I am hopeful that the later episodes will reveal much more insight and learnings.

  2. #2 LF
    18. November 2017

    Dear Editor, you must print!

    This the about Ross being a suspect is a joke. Ross wouldn’t fit the size 8 1/2 shoe like the print found, and the 7″ wrist watch would have been wat too small for him.

  3. #3 Ralf Bülow
    18. November 2017

    I looked for the CARMEL supercomputer mentioned in the show, and well, it is not that super, viz. https://www.isi.edu/licensed-sw/carmel/carmel-tutorial2.pdf or https://www.isi.edu/licensed-sw/carmel/ In any case, have fun ! The software was written 20 years ago.

  4. #4 Thomas
    18. November 2017

    Is there a thinking-like-a-killer part in this program as mentioned in the trailer? Quite creepy.

  5. #5 Breaker
    19. November 2017

    I was just banned over on the ACA page for making out a long list of cipher cracks in the case for them to dance around, as well as leaving them to ponder a few facts about who they are working for.

    I doxxed the Kevin Knight guy from his show appearance on The Curse of Oak Island last season, where they had an old grandmother come on the show to present a hand drawn cipher that was labeled “LA FORMULE”….. (spanish prefix and french word….lol)

    Kevin Knight appeared on the show to hand us a resulting analysis of the cipher from his “professional” point of view.

    The results said ” Clouds Dude”, “Taking Nine Enemas”, and ….believe it or not…..”Jew Liked Oven”…..

    The same computer that they are using for the Hunting The Zodiac show…..can’t believe they tried this sham.

    I have included a link for this most outrageous claim so you can see that I am in awe as to how this man, appearing to present the solve to this cipher on TV with an Arabesque woman in a Hijab next to him, presents words from a timeperiod so far from the dates proposed for the cipher, and yet has the gall to post these derogatory phrases on the show…..?!?

    It’s more than clear the dressed up affairs that they are running there…and the same guys are playing programmer with Dave’s newest finds from 10 years ago…..

    http://i67.tinypic.com/2hoferp.png

    It makes me wonder what the Formula is for?

    Enfamil?

  6. #6 cimddwc
    20. November 2017

    @Breaker:
    Regardless of any possibly appropriate criticism on Kevin Knight (and History Channel stuff in general), you might want to check what articles are used in French before lol’ing…

  7. #7 DB Cooper
    21. November 2017

    Breaker, where did you post the Knight dox?

  8. #8 Thomas
    30. November 2017

    In episode 3 the codebreaker team reveals that all zodiac crimes were committed on Dali days according to the moon calender. Dali days have a sign which resembles zodiac’s crosshair symbol. But that’s nothing new: http://www.zodiacciphers.com/zodiac-news/zodiac-13-moon-calendar-crimes. Thus no supercomputer is needed, also an old laptop or tablet will do….

  9. #9 Thomas
    7. Dezember 2017

    Episode 4: Craig Bauer alledgedly has solved the 340 cipher by immersing himself psychologically and seeing words. In the first line he has read “IKILLBOTH” and in the second last and last line “RICHARDMNIKSON”. (There had been already suspicions in that direction: https://jumpinginpools.blogspot.de/2009/07/zodiac-killer-mystery-solved-after-40.html.) I wonder whether this inspiration will be confirmed with cryptologic evidence.

  10. #10 Norman Bates
    9. Dezember 2017

    From a blurry screenshot of episode 4, I managed to see this:

    HERE ITIS IKILLBOTH
    NIGH TAND DAY.ILIVE
    BYTH EGIN BARELAIM
    SO_____WI SHINGFORG
    AMETO BEO VERPIG IS M
    _WRIS TNI LOC KS ?NOW
    ANGRY DANGEROS I
    WONTC HANGE YORGAME

    Line 4 is inclear. Could it say “SOON I WISH”?

    Episode 5 should reveal the clarified image.

  11. #11 George Lasry
    10. Dezember 2017

    Here is a transcription I found in another site – quite close

    HEREITISIKILLBOTH
    NIGHTANDDAY.ILIVE
    BYTHEGUNBARELAIM
    _SOQUITWISHINGFORG
    AMETOBEOVERIGIS.M
    AWRISTNILOCKS?NOW
    ANGRYDANGEROS???I
    WONTCHANGANYOFGAM

    I ran a quick program, to check the number of new symbols (and their first mapping to plaintext, marked a “+”), symbols seen again and matching (=), or conflicting (!). Here are the stats:

    +++++++++++++++++
    +=+++++++++++++++
    !++++=++!=!===+!+
    +!!+==+!=+===!!!!
    ++=!!++!!++==++!+
    !===!==+=!+=!!!!!
    =!=!+=+!!!+==!!!=
    !=!!!!======!!+!=

    as expected, at the beginning, most symbols are new, but the worrisome part is that after the first two lines, we see many conflicting pairs of ciphertext and plaintext:
    First seen = 60 ; Matching = 36; Conflicting = 40

    so more cases of conflict than matches. In the Z408, the Zodiac killer made very few mistakes, not so many.

    Also, I tried the letter assignment on the full message, and it reads:

    HEREITISIKILLBOTH
    NIGHTANDDAY.ILIVE
    HYTHEGUNOATELAIH_
    SIIUITWLSHINGGRIT
    AMEGIBEHIERIGISKM
    IWRIRTNILHCKRETDT
    AEGIYDATUHROS.ILI
    TOT_VEANGANYIGGLM
    HIEG?GNRTRHHY??SI
    IITUSGI_GNIUIRHYI
    UGRMEBEIDYHI?BEIN
    TIHTR_ILEBSE.GIHR
    I?MSYAGNIERHHTAWR
    TORNIVETS?.HSSBGG
    YHRLLTSMCEESUNEIG
    IH.HIHITNII.VEYOT
    RHBGLL?CIGRTAHIEL
    GGEACIAHINSHBMTEI
    IRKHAIUBHAYNHLICH
    EEDHNIKSINNW?IIAG

    Almost nothing readable past the first lines (I used the plaintext letter when ciphertext symbol is first seen).

    The last two lines are supposed to read Richerd M Nikson (mispelling on purpose), but here they read

    LICHEEDHNIKSIN

    Also quite far …

  12. #12 George Lasry
    10. Dezember 2017

    Here is another transcript – this time, I used a majority vote on conflicting letters. Still not too much readable:

    HEREITISIKILLBWNO
    NIGHTANDDAY.ILRVE
    HYTHEGUNWATELAOH_
    SIIUITWLSHINGGRRN
    AMEGOBEOIESIGISKM
    IWRISTNILOCKSENDT
    AEGRYDANUHRWS.OLI
    TWN_VEANGANYOGGLM
    OIEG?GNRNSHHY??SR
    IOTUSGI_GNIUISHYI
    UGRMEBEIDYHI?BERN
    NIHTR_ILEBSE.GIHS
    O?MSYAGNIESHHTAWR
    TWSNIVENS?.HSSBGG
    YHRLLTSMCEESUNEIG
    IH.HOHRTNII.VEYWN
    RHBGLL?CIGSTAHIEL
    GGEACOAHINSHBMTEI
    ISKOAIUBHAYNHLICH
    EEDHNIKSONNW?IRAG