Digital Fortress - Dan Brown

Digital Fortress - Dan Brown


Digital Fortress - Dan Brown

Digital Fortress is a techno-thriller novel written by American author Dan Brown and published in 1998 by St. Martin's Press. The book explores the theme of government surveillance of electronically stored information on the private lives of citizens, and the possible civil liberties and ethical implications using such technology.


Synopsis

 

When the United States National Security Agency's code-breaking supercomputer (TRANSLTR) encounters a new and complex code—Digital Fortress—that it cannot break, Commander Trevor Strathmore calls in Susan Fletcher, their head cryptographer, to crack it. She discovers that it was written by Ensei Tankado, a former NSA employee who became displeased with the NSA's intrusion into people's private lives. Tankado intends to auction the code's algorithm on his website and have his partner, "NDAKOTA", release it for free if he dies. Essentially holding the NSA hostage, the agency is determined to stop Digital Fortress from becoming a threat to national security.


Chapters told from Strathmore's perspective reveal his motives. By hiring Hulohot to kill Tankado, having Becker recover his ring, and at the same time arranging for Hulohot to kill him, would facilitate a romantic relationship with Fletcher, regaining his lost honor, and enable him to unlock Digital Fortress. By making phone calls to Numataka impersonating as "North Dakota", he thought he could partner with Numataka Corporation to make a Digital Fortress chip equipped with his own backdoor Trojan so that the NSA can spy on every computer equipped with these chips. However, Strathmore was unaware that Digital Fortress is actually a computer worm once unlocked, "eating away" at the NSA databank's security and allowing "any third-grader with a modem" to look at government secrets. When TRANSLTR overheats, Strathmore commits suicide by standing next to the machine as it explodes. The worm eventually gets into the database, but soon after Fletcher figures out the password (3, the difference between the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, Isotope 235, and the Nagasaki nuclear bomb, isotope 238, a reference to the nuclear bombs that killed his mother and left him crippled), and is able to terminate the worm before hackers can get any significant data. The NSA allows Becker to return to the United States, reuniting him with Fletcher. In the epilogue, it is revealed that Numataka is Ensei Tankado's father. Numataka left Tankado the day he was born since Tankado was a deformed child.


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