Cipher Cracking 2010

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Honours students

Project guidelines

Project description

In this project you will attempt to solve a murder that took place in Adelaide in 1948. This crime remains unsolved till today, but you can use engineering to bring our knowledge closer to the killer. You can read the details about the dead body and the circumstances [1]

Associated with the dead body was this secret code:


(See the original photograph, as there may be an extra line, and some of the M's may be W's. Some people also think that the last "I" is really a "V". Also the last G is probably really a C). To this day code crackers have been unable to decrypt it.

Weekly progress and questions

This is where you record your progress and ask questions. Make sure you update this every week.

Useful notes

As useful bits of information come to light, just list them here:

Approach and methodology

We expect you to take a structured approach to both the validation of last year's results, and the writing of the software. You should carefully design the big-picture high-level view of the software modules, and the relationships and interfaces between them. Think also about the data transformations needed - you will start off with html web pages, and in the end will need some matlab graphs.

Possible extension

If you knock off this project too easily and are looking for a harder code cracking problem to try your software out on, you can progress to analyzing another famous unsolved mystery: the Voynich Manuscript


We don't really expect you to find the killer, though that would be cool if you do and you'll become very famous overnight. To get good marks we expect you to show a logical approach to trying to find the patterns from the code on the web, and any other attempts to crack the code.

Relationship to possible career path

Whilst the project is fascinating as you'll learn about a specific murder case—and we do want you to have a lot of fun with it—the project does have a hard-core serious engineering side. It will familiarize you with techniques in information theory, probability, statistics, encryption, decryption, and datamining. It will also improve your software skills. The project will also involve writing software code that trawls for patterns on the world wide web (exploiting it as a huge database). This will force you to learn about search engines and databases; and the new tools you develop may lead to new IP in the area of datamining and also make you rich/famous. The types of jobs out there where these skills are useful are in computer security, comms, or in digital forensics. The types of industries that will need you are: the software industry, e-finance industry, e-security, IT industry, Google, telecoms industry, ASIO, ASIS, defence industry (e.g. DSD), etc. So go ahead and have fun with this, but keep your eye on the bigger engineering picture and try to build up an appreciation of why these techniques are useful to our industry. Now go find that killer...this message will self-destruct in five seconds :-)

See also

References and useful resources

If you find any useful external links, list them here: