Feeds

FBI asks for help to crack mystery code in 12-year-old murder case

Cryptoanalysts ask those with mad code-breaking skillz to help decipher notes

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

FBI experts are seeking the help of the public to make sense of two encrypted notes found on a murder victim that have stumped detectives for years.

Ricky McCormick, 41, was found dead in a field in St Louis, Missouri, back in June 1999. Two encrypted notes found in his pockets have defied the best efforts of detectives and FBI cryptoanalysts to make sense of them ever since.

The handwritten notes, written by the victim himself up to three days prior to his demise, contain a mixture of "letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses" that have defied traditional cryptanalysis techniques.

Members of McCormick's family report that he had used coded notes since he was a boy, without letting anyone in his family into the secret of how to decipher the messages.

The FBI is looking for other samples of notes made by MCCormick or left-field ideas on how to crack the code that could be crucial to solving a 12-year-old murder mystery. Another sample of a coded note from a similar system may also help.

"We are really good at what we do," said Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) chief Dan Olson, "but we could use some help with this one."

McCormick's encrypted notes are one of CRRU's top unsolved cases. "Breaking the code," explained Olson, "could reveal the victim's whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide."

No financial reward is on offer, just the pure intellectual challenge and the satisfaction that unravelling the code might bring a killer to justice.

"Even if we found out that he was writing a grocery list or a love letter," Olson said, "we would still want to see how the code is solved."

The notes and more information on the case, along with basic code-breaking tips, can be found in an FBI appeal for information here. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.