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Cryptographic Crimes

The Use of Cryptography in Real and Fictional Crimes


Marcel Danesi

This book examines the use of cryptography in both real and fictional crimes—a topic that is rarely broached. It discusses famous crimes, such as that of the Zodiac Killer, that revolve around cryptic messages and current uses of encryption that make solving cases harder and harder. It then draws parallels with the use of cryptography and secret writing in crime fiction, starting with Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, claiming that there is an implicit principle in all such writing—namely, that if the cryptogram is deciphered then the crime itself reveals its structure. The general conclusion drawn is that solving crimes is akin to solving cryptograms, as the crime fiction writers suggested. Cases of cryptographic crime, from unsolved cold cases to the Mafia crimes, are discussed and mapped against this basic theoretical assumption. The book concludes by suggesting that by studying cryptographic crimes the key to understanding crime may be revealed.
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6. Cryptography and Crime


← 112 | 113 →

Chapter Six


Cryptography and Crime

The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime.

Mignon McLaughlin (1913–1983)


The case of a murder in 2016–2017, planned on the Dark Net, constitutes a horrific tale and a cautionary tale of how cryptographic crimes have been mutating in cyberspace.1 Police charged a Minnesota man, Stephen Allwine, with second-degree intentional murder of his wife, Amy. Allwine had devised a plot via the Dark Net whereby he would pay for her murder, asking the potential killer to stage it as a suicide. Three police agencies were involved in cracking the case—the local police, the FBI, and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)—which, together conducted a thorough computer forensic investigation, searching for murder-for-hire jobs remunerated with virtual currency (bitcoins) on the Dark Net. ← 113 | 114 →

Police found Allwine’s wife in her bedroom in a pool of blood. When told that the FBI had collected information from the Dark Net that someone had been trying to hire a killer to murder his wife, Allwine denied knowing anything about it. But the police were not fooled. They examined his computer and discovered that he had been using the Dark Net with sophisticated computer equipment in his home. On the “Besa Mafia” murder-for-hire website, police found that someone with the username “dogdaygod” was asking what it would cost to have Amy...

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