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 of using such technology.
First edition cover
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press
Transworld (United Kingdom)
|Media type||Print (hardback, paperback), audiobook|
|ISBN||0-312-18087-X (first edition hardcover)|
When the United States National Security Agency's code-breaking supercomputer TRANSLTR encounters a revolutionary new code, Digital Fortress that it cannot break, Commander Trevor Strathmore calls in head cryptographer Susan Fletcher 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. If the NSA doesn't reveal TRANSLTR to the public, Tankado intends to auction the code's algorithm on his website and have his partner, "North Dakota," 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.
When Tankado does indeed die in Seville, of what appears to be a heart attack, Strathmore asks David Becker (Susan's fiancé) to travel to Seville and recover a ring that Tankado was wearing when he died. The ring is suspected to have the code that unlocks Digital Fortress. However, Becker soon discovers that Tankado gave the ring away just before his death. Each person he questions in the search for the ring is murdered by Hulohot, a mysterious deaf assassin.
Meanwhile, telephone calls between North Dakota and Tokugen Numataka (chairman of the Japanese computer company Numatech) reveal that North Dakota hired Hulohot to kill Tankado in order to gain access to the passcode on his ring and speed up the release of the algorithm. At the NSA, Fletcher's investigation leads her to believe that Greg Hale, a fellow NSA employee, is North Dakota. Phil Chartrukian, an NSA technician who is unaware of the Digital Fortress code breaking failure and believes Digital Fortress to be a virus, conducts his own investigation into whether Strathmore allowed Digital Fortress to bypass Gauntlet (NSA's virus/worm filter). However, Chartrukian is murdered after being pushed off the catwalk in the sub-levels of TRANSLTR by an unknown assailant. Since Hale and Strathmore were both in the sub-levels, Fletcher assumes that Hale is the killer; however, Hale claims that he witnessed Strathmore killing Chartrukian. Chartrukian's fall also damages TRANSLTR's cooling system.
Hale holds Fletcher and Strathmore hostage to prevent himself from being arrested for the murder. It is then that Hale explains that the e-mail he supposedly received from Tankado was actually in his inbox because he was snooping on Strathmore, who was also watching Tankado's e-mail account. After the encounter, Hale's name is cleared when Fletcher discovers through a tracer that North Dakota and Ensei Tankado are actually the same person, as "NDAKOTA" is an anagram of "Tankado." Strathmore exposes himself when he fatally shoots Hale and arranges it to appear as a suicide. Susan later discovers through Strathmore's pager that he is the one who hired Hulohot. Becker later kills Hulohot in a violent confrontation.
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, he would facilitate a romantic relationship with Fletcher, regaining his lost honor and enable him to unlock Digital Fortress. By making phone calls to Numataka posing as North Dakota, he thought he could partner with Numatech to make a Digital Fortress chip equipped with his own backdoor Trojan so that the NSA could spy on every computer equipped with these chips. However, Strathmore was unaware that Digital Fortress is actually a computer worm that, once unlocked would "eat away" at the NSA databank's security and allow "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 David Becker 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 Tankado's 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.
- Susan Fletcher – The NSA's Head Cryptographer, and the story's lead character
- David Becker – A Professor of Modern Languages and the fiancé of Susan Fletcher
- Ensei Tankado – The author of Digital Fortress and a disgruntled former NSA employee.
- Commander Trevor Strathmore – NSA Deputy Director of Operations
- Phil Chartrukian – Sys-Sec Technician
- Greg Hale – NSA Cryptographer
- Leland Fontaine – Director of NSA
- Hulohot – an assassin hired by Commander Trevor Strathmore to locate the Passkey
- Midge Milken – Fontaine's internal security analyst
- Chad Brinkerhoff – Fontaine's personal assistant
- "Jabba" – NSA's senior System Security Officer
- Soshi Kuta – Jabba's head technician and assistant
- Tokugen Numataka – Japanese Executive attempting to purchase Digital Fortress.
Inaccuracies and criticismEdit
The book was criticized by GCN for portraying facts about the NSA incorrectly, and for misunderstanding the technology in the book, especially for the time when it was published.
In 2005, the town hall of the Spanish city of Seville invited Dan Brown to visit the city, in order to dispel the inaccuracies about Seville that Brown represented within the book.
Digital Fortress has been widely translated:
- Estonian as Digitaalne Kindlus
- Azerbaijani as "Rəqəmsal Qala" ISBN 978-9952-26-426-5
- French as Forteresse Digitale, ISBN 978-2-253-12707-9
- Arabic as الحصن الرقمي, ISBN 9953299129, 2005, Arab Scientific Publishers
- Dutch as Het Juvenalis Dilemma, ISBN 9789024553020
- Korean as 디지털 포트리스
- German as Diabolus, ISBN 978-3785721940
- Bosnian as Digitalna tvrđava
- Portuguese as Fortaleza Digital, ISBN 972-25-1469-5
- Indonesian as Benteng Digital, ISBN 9791600910
- Turkish as Dijital Kale, ISBN 978-975-21-1165-3
- Danish as Tankados Kode
- Hebrew as שם הצופן: מבצר דיגיטלי
- Slovak as Digitálna pevnosť, ISBN 80-7145-9917
- Bulgarian as Цифрова крепост, ISBN 978-954-584-0173
- Hungarian as Digitális erőd, ISBN 978-963-689-3460
- Vietnamese as Pháo đài số, ISBN 978-604-50-2946-6
- Greek as ΨΗΦΙΑΚΟ ΟΧΥΡΟ , ISBN 960-14-1101-1
- Serbian as Дигитална тврђава
- Macedonian as Дигитална тврдина
- Russian as Цифровая крепость
- Spanish as La Fortaleza Digital, ISBN 8489367019
- Romanian as Fortăreața digitală
- Czech as Digitální pevnost
- Ukrainian as Цифрова фортеця
- Finnish as Murtamaton linnake
- Swedish as Gåtornas Palats
- Norwegian as Den Digitale Festning
- Italian as Crypto, ISBN 978-880-45-7191-9
- Polish as Cyfrowa twierdza, ISBN 978-83-7885-752-5
- Albanian as Diabolus
- Chinese as 數位密碼
- Slovene as Digitalna trdnjava
- Breeen II, Dan (2011-08-02). "Why can't novels get technology right?". GCN. United States: Public Sector Media Group. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
- Nash, Elizabeth (2005-08-27). "Dan Brown: Seville smells and is corrupt. City: You come here and say that". United Kingdom: The Independent. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
- Andreeva, Nellie (September 11, 2014). "ABC Nabs Adaptation Of Dan Brown’s ‘Digital Fortress’ From Imagine & 20th TV". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 21, 2014.