Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Prescient concern about "unbreakable" encryption in Dan Brown's fin-de-siècle "techno-thriller" "Digital Fortress"

In 1998, before he catapulted to celebrity status after publishing Angels & Demons in 2000 and The DaVinci Code in (according to the instance of Cortana on my Lumia 60 smartphone from Microsoft) April, 2003, Dan Brown, formerly an English teacher, wrote and published Digital Fortress, a novel with a professor of languages protagonist (clearly a prototype of his Robert Langdon, a professor of semiotics).

The reviews of Digital Fortress on Amazon.com paint a picture of a formulaic and poorly-written book, replete with technical errors and an easy-to-decode plot.  Not to mention characters so generic and wooden as to incite speculation about whether they are susceptible to termites.

What I found startling in it was the perspicacity and prescience of the author in highlighting an issue that is, as of last week, one of the most pressing concerns of the national security community, more specifically the national cyber-security community, and that is the issue of "unbreakable" encryption.

The MacGuffin in Digital Fortress is the eponymous Digital Fortress encryption algorithm.  Brown builds his story about efforts by his lead characters to thwart the distribution of this tool.  While doing so, they often find themselves discussing the very issues of privacy vs. security that fill the airwaves and blogs these days.

To experience an early treatment of these themes, you can buy the book yourself, through the link below.

If anyone buys the book through this link, a small percentage of the sale price will accrue to an Amazon account under the control of Etopia News, the muskopolis-20 account.

For an interesting discussion about the problems that unbreakable encryption creates for law enforcement, and the possible solution authorities may have found to the  problem (i.e., forcing the suspect to decrypt the data on his or her phone), click here.


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