An encrypted diary posted on Reddit last year is still unsolved.

Encrypted diaries are a frequent topic on this blog. My encrypted book list contains about two dozens of them. Almost all of them are completely solved. One of the few exceptions is an encrypted journal I discovered on Reddit and introduced on this blog earlier this year. I still hope that one of my readers will break it. One of the problems is that the plaintext language is unclear. Though the ciphertext is written on English calendar paper, the underlying language is not necessarily English.

When I recently searched for the term “encrypted diary” on Google, I found another interesting Reddit post. This is not unusual, as there is a Reddit group named /r/codes, in which unsolved cryptograms are discussed. However, this time Google directed me to another group, /r/mildlyinteresting, which is certainly not the best place to publish a crypto mystery. Apparently, a user named zKampeR didn’t know this, and so he posted a photograph of an encrypted diary there. This was nine months ago.

Source: Reddit

To my regret, the information zKampeR provided about his find was quite sparse. He wrote: “This encrypted journal I found in an old piano, with entries dating from 1993.”

Meanwhile, a few dozen comments concerning this cryptogram have been published on Reddit, a few of them by zKampeR himself. The following information can be retrieved from these notes:

  • zKampeR, the author of the post, found the diary in an old piano in his own room. So, probably it was written by some relative of his.
  • The diary is quite comprehensive, consisting of about 2,000 pages spread over eight volumes. Only one page is depicted in the Reddit post.
  • The plaintext language is probably Romanian. This is confirmed by the cleartext word “Mai”, which is Romanian for “May”.
  • The only unencrypted line in the diary excerpt zKampeR posted is “14 Mai Oma-Ni Padme-Hum”, which turns out to be a date followed by the title of a buddhist chant.

As already mentioned, virtually all encrypted diaries known in the crypto community have been deciphered. This is because diary authors usually prefer simple ciphers that allow for speedy encryption. The cipher used here doesn’t look especially complicated either. My guess is that the author has used a simple substitution cipher (MASC).

On Reddit, nobody has posted a solution yet. Can my readers do better?

Further reading: Solved: An encrypted diary from the interwar period


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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa.
    25. April 2020


  2. #2 Seth Kintigh
    25. April 2020

    A few years ago I looked into software that could read and transcribe arbitrary symbols, like OCR for unknown alphabets. I couldn’t find a complete product, but I did see a few papers where people had written tools to do this. Does anyone know of such a tool that could be used to transcribe this code?

    I will search for more, unfortunately it has become tradition in Computer Science papers, especially in crypto, to not release the source code, nor a compiled tool, nor instructions on how to replicate their work, nor any proof they ever did the work they claimed, nor any evidence it ever even worked as claimed. Most recently I read a paper on a “toolkit” for RSA attacks. I contacted the author on wear to find the toolkit and he basically admitted it doesn’t exist. Sigh.

  3. #3 ShadowWolf
    25. April 2020

    A lot of years ago, I had an OCR program that would allow you to “teach” it how to read a new font. More recently I’ve looked for a replacement and didn’t find one. I would expect open source software to be available that might do this, but sometimes the real trick is finding it. Installing 10 or 20 OCR programs just to find one feature is annoying at best and it tends to corrupt the windows install. I certainly don’t want to pay for a program I don’t really have a lot of use for or likely doesn’t have the one feature I need. I still look occasionally, but OCR has come far enough that the programs don’t really need a learning mode.

    Having said that, what I usually do with these is hand copy the symbols and transcribe a few hundred letters to an arbitrary alphabet. The handwriting is sloppy and you can detect repeated words though some look like they have 1 symbol different but almost the same. As a personal note, I hate symbol ciphers because many of them are not easy to read. Sloppy handwriting can quickly turn something simple into an ambiguous mess. It is partially why some go unsolved for so long. Trying to OCR this would likely end in failure. I’m seeing what might be 4 or 5 different symbols that are probably the same letter. It isn’t the same as a nice machine printed font from a computer printer or a printing press.

  4. #4 ShadowWolf
    26. April 2020

    Did some quick research.

    Moldova used a form of a Cyrillic alphabet up to 1989 and an older form until 1859. This text has characteristics of some of the older form letters as they might appear if handwritten. Someone who perhaps learned the old form could have continued using the old form and lived long enough to have lived during the early 1900’s. To a modern reader they might appear to be a cipher as it appears most switched to a Latin alphabet using Italian spelling long before that.

    I’m also not going to completely discount it being a cipher. There are enough symbols that don’t fit in any of the alphabets though handwriting is often different than printed letters. The diaries could also be older than noted.

  5. #5 Norbert
    27. April 2020

    A decryption attempt for the two sentences right under the cleartext line (17 MAI OM MA-NI PAD-ME HUM):

    Sîn zici şi zîum în esenţa mea în sufletul tau tată şi îţi mulţumesc că âm putere, sănătate, înţelepciune şi tinereţe veşnică. Îţi mulţumesc tată că pot manifesta iubirea, armonia, abundenta prosperităţii tale divine.

    I don’t speak any Romanian, but any native speaker should be able to put this right. In its current form, Google translates it as follows:

    I say and say in my essence in your soul father and I thank you that I have strength, health, wisdom and eternal youth. Thank you, Father, for manifesting the love, the harmony, the abundance of your divine prosperity.

  6. #6 Norbert
    28. April 2020

    The next two sentences (one symbol still unclear):

    Îţi mulţumesc ca mi-ai deschis ochii şi inima pentru a primi tot ceea ce este mai bun pentru mine şi draţii mei, pentru noi copii tăi. Ştiu că tot cee ce este al tău ?ste și al meu și ală pot tucuru de toa te darurile divine pe cure le am de la tine.

    Taking the unclear word for “este”, Google’s translator outputs:

    Thank you for opening my eyes and heart to receive all that is best for me and my loved ones, for your new children. I know that everything that is yours is mine and I can take all the divine gifts I have from you.

    So, this is a diary entry from a very religious person. It feels like something very personal, and I will not go on decrypting. The cipher symbols are solved now for the most part.

  7. #7 Thomas
    28. April 2020

    Norbert: Awesome, congratulations!

  8. #8 Klaus Schmeh
    28. April 2020

    @Norbert: Congratulations! Great job!