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FBI Wants You To Solve Encrypted Notes From Murder 466

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-you-mean-muuuuuurder dept.
coondoggie writes "The FBI is seeking the public's help in breaking the encrypted code found in two notes discovered on the body of a murdered man in 1999. The FBI says that officers in St. Louis, Missouri discovered the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick on June 30, 1999 in a field and the clues regarding the homicide were two encrypted notes found in the victim's pants pockets."
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FBI Wants You To Solve Encrypted Notes From Murder

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  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:03PM (#35658520)
    you must be a suspect
  • by Tigger's Pet (130655) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:09PM (#35658582) Homepage

    It would be nice if the FBI got off their arses and provided a copy of the notes in text format so that we could copy/paste them into something more useful as a format for saving and editing - or are they expecting each person to do this themselves?

  • by mastershake82 (948396) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:14PM (#35658664)
    Well... since nobody has any clue as to how it is encrypted... perhaps there is something specific as to how it was written regarding how to decrypt. They don't know that there is, and they don't know that there isn't, so they've effectively provided you everything they have to work with. It's up to you if you think it should be worked in a different format.
  • by wreakyhavoc (1045750) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:30PM (#35658872)
    It's a one time pad. The pad, in this case, seems to have resided in the head of the writer. If statistical methods of attack have failed, there is little hope of solving the code.

    One wonders what information would need saving in such a complex manner. It seems like the memory needed to remember the decoding scheme would be equivalent to the memory needed to remember the information in the first place. Perhaps the notes were intended for someone else, with a key to be provided at another time or location.

    If http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com] I guess it didn't work.
  • by cforciea (1926392) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:37PM (#35658940)
    Given that there are repeated segments of symbols, it is almost definitively not a one time pad.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:45PM (#35659080) Homepage Journal

    Your probably correct but just a note to myself. If I ever kill someone I need to leave a message that is nothing but the output of a random number generator. That will keep them busy for decades :)

  • Re:FBI is grasping (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:01PM (#35659316)

    They could be shopping lists that the victim made in code for his own amusement

    I was about to give you a smart response, but I just realized that I read the wrong article (I read the actual FBI posting, not the commentary on the posting). From the original posting [fbi.gov], it seems like there's two reasons for the FBI wanting to crack the code: from a investigative standpoint, it might give some hint as to where the victim was before he was murdered, which might lead to other clues.

    However, since the cryptanalyst quoted also said, "Even if we found out that he was writing a grocery list or a love letter, we would still want to see how the code is solved. This is a cipher system we know nothing about," I'd guess that a large part is just wanting to know the answer to a puzzle that they couldn't solve. If you don't understand this impulse, you're obviously not human, or have no interest in bettering yourself.

  • thats it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:06PM (#35659360) Journal

    McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy

    and all we get are two examples? Lame.

        Why doesn't the FBI provide some of the research they've already done? Collaborate instead of simply asking someone to do your work! For example, higher quality scans, unique symbols, symbol frequency, symbol distance matrices, other known writings of the victim. Can we get some more environmental clues? victim's known proper nouns, background, travels, language(s) exposed to, favorite pop culture topics, etc. This all seems like a lot more detective work should be done. Solve the murder, not the puzzle.

    And they use a snail mail address for contact? Is this article from the 1950's?

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:14PM (#35659468) Homepage

    According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy

    So, wouldn't they have more samples of the encryption to help with the decryption effort? If they have samples from when he was a boy, they might even be an earlier & easier code that evolved to the one in question...

  • by C_L_Lk (1049846) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:57PM (#35660714) Homepage

    Has anyone considered that maybe these notes ARE the one time pad for decrypting another message that hasn't been discovered yet?

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:58PM (#35660724) Homepage Journal

    So only 59 more years to go on his copyright.

    You mean 59 + 20 + 20 + 20 + ... [wikipedia.org]

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