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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Digital Fortress » User review

Overdone at times, but still an entertaining book

  • Mar 17, 2005
Rating:
+3
As a computer professional and a citizen concerned with data privacy, I found a great deal of this story interesting. It is fast-paced, sometimes almost too much so, and builds to a dramatic climax. Like all good mysteries, there are several possible perpetrators, and as you read it, your mental finger of guilt occasionally points to all of them.
The main premise is that the National Security Agency (NSA) has a supercomputer that is capable of cracking all encryption codes in a matter of minutes. A former associate of the NSA was let go because of his opposition to some of the actions of the NSA and has privately announced that he had created an encryption scheme that cannot be cracked. He calls it digital fortress and he supposedly used the encryption scheme to encrypt the scheme. He then passed the "encrypted" file to Strathmore, one of the highest officials of the NSA, along with a challenge to try to break it. Strathmore loads the file onto the supercomputer, but bypasses all of the virus filters before doing so. He had been told that the encryption mechanism was one that would mimic virus activity.
David Becker is an English teacher who is fluent in many languages. He is engaged to Susan Fletcher, one of the most talented NSA codebreakers and has worked with the NSA in the past. Therefore, Strathmore sends him to Spain in an attempt to obtain the passkey that will unlock digital fortress. This unleashes a rapid and intense series of events, as a professional assassin has been sent to follow him until he finds it and then kill him and obtain the key. The assassin has also been given specific instructions to kill anyone who knows anything about the existence of the ring that contains the key.
There are some deep social and political messages in this story. The high level people of the NSA have appointed themselves as final arbiters of what constitutes appropriate actions to guarantee national security. Strathmore is openly contemptuous of the groups that are trying to maintain some form of legal oversight of the use of private data and he does not hesitate to employ assassins to carry out his wishes. I found that part of the story overdone. While I have no doubt that there are people in the NSA who consider themselves superior, killing people who are essentially innocent is not an effective strategy.
Nevertheless, this is a story that is extremely entertaining and some of the descriptions of the computer experts reminded me of people that I know in the field. The final message of "Who will guard the guards?" is very appropriate.

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Quick Tip by . August 23, 2010
This is my favorite book by Dan Brown, even though it is a bit simpler than some of the others. It is definitely a good "starter" book into the writings of Dan Brown. I would absolutely recommend this novel.
Quick Tip by . August 08, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
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Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
Just like "deception point", this will definitely catch your thoughts.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Excellent book for begginers. When you don`t like to read and want to read some action that have nothing to add to your life, read this book.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
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Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Excellent book, I would really recommend reading this.
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Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Wiki

In most thrillers, "hardware" consists of big guns, airplanes, military vehicles, and weapons that make things explode. Dan Brown has written a thriller for those of us who like our hardware with disc drives and who rate our heroes by big brainpower rather than big firepower. It's an Internet user's spy novel where the good guys and bad guys struggle over secrets somewhat more intellectual than just where the secret formula is hidden--they have to gain understanding of what the secret formula actually is.

In this case, the secret formula is a new means of encryption, capable of changing the balance of international power. Part of the fun is that the book takes the reader along into an understanding of encryption technologies. You'll find yourself better understanding the political battles over such real-life technologies as the Clipper Chip and PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) software even though the book looks at the issues through the eyes of fiction.

Although there's enough globehopping in this book for James Bond, the real battleground is cyberspace, because that's where the "bomb" (or rather, the new encryption algorithm) will explode. Yes, there are a few flaws in the plot if you look too closely, but the cleverness and the sheer fun of it all more than make up for them. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and a lot of high, gee-whiz-level information about encryption, code breaking, and the role they play in ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0552151696
ISBN-13: 978-0552151696
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Science Fiction, Techno-Thriller, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Date Published: 1998
Format: Paperback
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