David Oranchak kennt die verschlüsselten Botschaften des Zodiac-Killers so gut wie kaum ein anderer. In FOCUS Online hat er ein Interview dazu gegeben. In diesem Artikel gibt es die ausführliche Version auf Englisch.
Ende der 1960er-Jahre trieb im Raum San Francisco ein Serienmörder sein Unwesen: der Zodiac-Killer. Er wurde nie gefasst. Insgesamt viermal schickte er verschlüsselte Botschaften an Regionalzeitungen. Die erste Nachricht wurde gelöst. Die drei verbleibenden Botschaften (eine mit 340, eine mit 32 und eine mit 13 Buchstaben) geben bis heute Rätsel auf. Der US-Amerikaner David Oranchak kennt die verschlüsselten Botschaften des Zodiac-Killers wie kaum ein anderer. Er betreibt eine vielbeachtete Web-Seite dazu. Ich habe Oranchak bei der NSA-Koferenz in Oktober getroffen und interviewt. Das Interview ist jetzt in FOCUS Online erschienen: Ein Zodiac-Experte über die Codes des rätselhaften Killers.
Das FOCUS-Online-Interview ist natürlich aus dem Englischen übersetzt und gekürzt. Hier ist die Originalversion:
Question: Many people wonder who the Zodiac Killer was. Do you have a suspicion?
Oranchak: No, I do not. Many people have their favorite suspects, but I tend to focus more on the details of the ciphers. I have a general interest in online discussions involving other people’s suspicions, but to me they all seem equally inconclusive. However, despite apparently being ruled out by authorities, Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) has some interesting similarities to the Zodiac Killer: They have similar handwriting, both lived in San Francisco in 1969 / 1970, both wrote taunting letters, both created intricate codes, etc. Here is a forum thread going over a lot of the details: https://www.zodiackillersite.com/viewtopic.php?f=102&t=938. I believe the similarities between Kaczynski and the Zodiac Killer are coincidental, but they are indeed interesting. More info: https://www.unazod.com/essay.html. And here’s a more skeptical view: https://www.zodiackillerfacts.com/unabomber.htm.
Question: Only the first out of four of the Zodiac messages is solved. Do you think the other ones will ever be broken?
Oranchak: I’m optimistic about the unsolved 340-character cipher. The unsolved 13-character cipher has too few symbols to know for sure if a solution is found. And the unsolved 32-character cipher is mostly made up of unique symbols, so it does not have enough constraints to filter out possibilities. I think with the 340, it is possible to systematically eliminate possibilities, because it has enough constraints. The key to this is to simulate the cipher’s construction, using test ciphers that resemble the 340. If the test ciphers are all crackable and the 340 isn’t, then that is strong evidence that the assumptions about the cipher’s construction are wrong. Hopefully, changing the assumptions might lead to a solution. The problem with this approach is that is it very tedious! The alternative is to wait for someone to be lucky enough to stumble upon the correct idea about how it is constructed.
Question: What is your opinion about Z-340? Has there been any progress recently?
Oranchak: There’s a strong possibility that there is something odd about the 340, since it is not crackable by the many algorithms that are effective at solving normal homophonic substitution ciphers with similar qualities. Most new work I’ve seen involves developing new algorithms to crack ciphers similar to the 408, which is just a relatively normal homophonic substitution cipher. The algorithms are all shown to be effective at solving those, but not the 340. The first paper I’ve seen that explores the possibility that something’s wrong with the 340 is the one I mentioned in my article here: https://www.zodiackillerciphers.com/?p=504. Also, we can’t ignore the possibility that the 340 has no valid message, and was just put together by the killer to waste everyone’s time.
Question: In 2009, a woman from California claimed that her father was the Zodiac killer. What do you think about this?
Answer: Her claims were very quickly ruled out, and her credibility has been destroyed. Here’s an article about the police dismissing her claims: https://www.ocregister.com/articles/perez-221153-zodiac-jones.html. Many people have come forward with similar claims, and to my knowledge none have yet been validated. Over the years, the Zodiac Killer case has attracted numerous crazy ideas and theories. It has evolved into a kind of popular mythology. This aspect of the case is both fascinating and deeply frustrating. Once people have enough desire to believe something, they will apply selection bias to cultivate evidence that supports their belief, while ignoring the evidence that denies it.
Question: You are one of the leading Zodiac Killer experts. How comes you are interested in this case?
Oranchak: I would say that I am definitely NOT an expert on the Zodiac Killer case, because I am not deeply familiar with the details of the case, except for the ciphers. My interest in the case is in the ciphers, since they coincide with my interests in computer science, mathematics, and puzzles. I am excited about the possibilities of solving the ciphers with new applications of computer science. I’m also familiar enough with cryptology to know how to separate valid and invalid solution proposals. Here are several people who are much more knowledgable about the case than me:
- Michael Butterfield (https://zodiackillerfacts.com)
- Mike Morford (https://zodiackillersite.com)
- Tom Voigt (https://zodiackiller.com)
- Michael Kelleher (author of “This Is the Zodiac Speaking: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer”)
- Robert Graysmith
Question: Is there any research on the Zodiac case that still waits to be done?
Oranchak: As far as the ciphers go, yes, I believe there is research that can still be done. It involves the testing of various test ciphers, and trying out different assumptions, as I mentioned above. I think systematically ruling out certain types of encipherment can at least narrow the solution search a little. As far as the case itself, I don’t know. There are still so many questions and few answers. Adding to the problems is the fact that Graysmith’s book, “Zodiac”, which created significant popular interest in the case, but has many factual inaccuracies. Graysmith has been known to fabricate information to support the claims in his books.
Question: There are several movies about the Zodiac case. Which one do you recommend?
Oranchak: The only one I’ve seen is David Fincher’s “Zodiac”, which I really enjoyed. I’m a big fan of David Fincher’s work as a director, and his adaptation of “Zodiac” does a great job of showing how the main characters were consumed with obsession about the case.