by Gerald Boerner

"’We all have a right to keep secrets…”
— Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

"It is said that in death, all things become clear; Ensei Tankado now knew it was true."
— Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

Bonus: Thought for the Day…
"There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Strathmore loved his country. He was known to his colleagues as a patriot and a visionary…a decent man in a world of lies."
— Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

Bonus: Thought for the Day…
"Every night the young Tankado stared down at the twisted fingers holding his daruma wish-doll and swore he’d have revenge – revenge against the country that had stolen his mother and shamed his father into abandoning him."
— Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

Bonus: Thought for the Day…
"To make their charade of incompetence complete, the NSA [National Security Agency, but so secret that it’s also known as No Such Agency] lobbied fiercely against all new encryption software, insisting it crippled them and made it impossible for lawmakers to catch and prosecute the criminals. Civil rights groups cried foul, insisting the NSA shouldn’t be reading their mail anyway. Encryption software kept rolling off the presses. The NSA had lost the battle–exactly as it had planned."
— Dan Brown, Digital Fortress

  

Dan Brown (born June 22, 1964)

Dan_Brown_bookjacket_cropped Dan Brown is an American author of thriller fiction, best known for the 2003 bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Brown’s novels feature the recurring themes of cryptography, keys, symbols, codes, and conspiracy theories. His books have been translated into over 40 languages, and as of 2009, sold over 80 million copies.

This book deals with issues of civil rights, the privacy of citizens from their government and the right to privacy on the internet. There are many discussions in the book concerning whether or not it is ethical for a government organization to freely access any information stored electronically by its citizens.

Real life scenarios…

Digital Fortress Cover The book is loosely based around recent history of cryptography. In 1976 the Data Encryption Standard (DES) was approved with a 56-bit key rather than the 64-bit key originally proposed. It was widely reckoned that the National Security Agency had pushed through this reduction in security on the assumption that it could crack codes before anyone else.

The brute force search used by TRANSLTR takes twice as long for each extra bit added to the key (if this is done sensibly), so the reaction of the industry has understandably been to lengthen the key. The Advanced Encryption Standard established in 2001 uses 128, 192 or 256 bits, which take at least 1021 times as long (i.e. 270) to solve by this technique.

Unbreakable codes are not new to the industry. The one-time pad, invented in 1917 and used for the cold-war era Moscow-Washington hotline, was proved to be unconditionally secure by Claude Shannon in 1949 when properly implemented. However it is inconvenient to use in practice.

Plot summary…

When the NSA’s invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls in its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant and beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage… not by guns or bombs, but by a code so ingeniously complex that if released it will cripple U.S. intelligence.

Chillingly current and filled with more intelligence secrets than Tom Clancy,  Digital Fortress transports the reader deep within the most powerful intelligence organization on earth–the National Security Agency (NSA)–an ultra-secret, multi-billion dollar agency which (until now) less than three percent of Americans knew existed.

When the NSA’s most classified technological wonder–an invincible code-breaking machine–encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls in its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant and beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power.

The NSA is being held hostage… not by guns or bombs, but by a code so ingeniously complex that if released it will cripple U.S. intelligence.

Caught in an accelerating tempest of secrecy and lies, Susan Fletcher battles to save the agency she believes in. Betrayed on all sides she finds herself fighting not only for her country, but for her life, and in the end, for the life of the man she loves.

With a startling twist that leaves the agency scrambling to avert the biggest intelligence disaster in U.S. history,  Digital Fortress never lets up.

From the underground hallways of power, to the skyscrapers of Tokyo, to the towering cathedrals of Spain, a desperate race unfolds. It is a battle for survival — a crucial bid to destroy a creation of inconceivable genius… an impregnable code-writing formula that threatens to obliterate the balance of power. Forever.

Cast of Characters…
  • Susan Fletcher 
    A brilliant and beautiful mathematician
  • David Becker
    Linguistic genius, boyfriend of Susan Fletcher
  • Ensei Tankado
    Terrorist, deformed, Japanese son of woman deformed by atomic bomb
Reflection on Digital Fortress…

“Information age terrorism is the topical subject of Brown’s inventive debut thriller about a virtual attack on the National Security Agency’s top-secret super computer, TRANSLTR. Although TRANSLTR is meant to monitor and decode e-mail between terrorists, the computer can also covertly intercept e-mail between private citizens. The latter capability drives former NSA programmer Ensei Tankado to paralyze TRANSLTR with Digital Fortress, a devious mathematical formula with an unbreakable code. Tankado then demands that the NSA publicly admit TRANSLTR’s existence or he will auction Digital Fortress’s pass-key to the highest bidder. Brown cleverly makes ironic, mischievous Tankado (who dies in the first chapter) the most interesting character in the book and its real protagonist, as the programmer posthumously outmaneuvers his opposition, countering their obsessive quest for complex solutions with brilliant simplicity. His favorite saying, "Who will guard the guards?" stands in noble contrast to the NSA agents self-righteous insistence that they always know what is best for America… In this fast-paced, plausible tale, Brown blurs the line between good and evil enough to delight patriots and paranoids alike.”
— Publisher’s Weekly

[Book information is from the Wikipedia article on Digital Fortress that can be found at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Fortress ]

[Book information is from the Dan Brown Web Site at:
http://www.danbrown.com/#/digitalFortress/plot ]