Dan Brown - Digital Fortress book

Charly Avital shavital at mac.com
Wed Jan 14 16:15:47 CET 2009

Andre Amorim wrote the following on 1/14/09 9:49 AM:
> Hi all,
> Anyone knows what's is fact (real) and what is fiction in Dan Brown
> novel, Digital Fortress ?
> Kind Regards,
> [s]

I read it years ago. I believe it's the worst book ever written by Dan

Some excerpts from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Fortress>. I
believe the following list of Mr. Brown's errors (or delusions) is not
exclusive, to say the least.

Still, it's my opinion, only.


"Although the book's website cites reviews lauding Digital Fortress for
being extremely realistic, the book contains a number of technical
errors and misunderstandings in computers, math and technology.

    * Brown mentions a Hungarian mathematician, Josef Harne, who in 1987
proposed an encryption algorithm that, in addition to encrypting,
shifted decrypted cleartext over a time variant. However, neither Harne
nor the concept of rotating-cleartext ever existed.[1]
    * Brown says the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was fueled by the
uranium isotope U-238. The Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki was fueled
by plutonium 239, and U-238 is not an easily fissionable isotope of
uranium (needing a fusion reaction to initiate fission in the U-238).
    * Brown also inaccurately portrays the leadership of the NSA. As
part of the Department of Defense, the NSA director - by law - must be a
three-star Lieutenant General or Vice Admiral.
    * Brown confuses bits with bytes, describing a 64bit string as
containing 64 alphanumeric characters. In fact it would be just 8
assuming the most basic 8bit character encoding, each character being a
byte or 8 bits.
    * Brown suggests that TRANSLTR, a machine capable of breaking a
64bit key in 10 minutes would take just an hour to break a 10,000 bit
key. This is a gross misunderstanding of the relationship between key
lengths and the time required to brute force them. Such a machine would
take over 80,000 years to break a 96-bit key and over 350,000 billion
years (nearly 30,000 times the current age of the universe) to break a
128-bit key. The number of years it would take to break a 10,000 bit key
isn't even practical to write down - it has 2,987 digits.
    * Brown repeatedly confuses storage or processing of data with
execution. For example, TRANSLTR is threatened because it has tried to
crack Digital Fortress, which is actually a virus, and the database is
similarly threatened because Digital Fortress is sent to it by TRANSLTR.
Databases and password crackers do not execute the information presented
to them, so it wouldn't matter that Digital Fortress contains harmful
    * Characters who are supposedly experts in cryptography seem to
think there is no such thing as an unbreakable encryption scheme. See
one-time pad."

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