Does Big Brother know about the love letter you emailed your friend yesterday?
In Digital Fortress, Dan Brown introduces you to America's National Security Agency, the NSA. There are lots of secrets out there, and the NSA is the agency that tries to decipher them and determine which ones pose a threat to mankind. They look at everything in order to find a tip-off to potential terrorist attacks and disasters.
Is their cause noble? The plot revolves around an ongoing conflict of how much freedom should be given to the NSA in their quest to intercept terrorist communications. Human right organizations are in constant opposition to the policies the NSA, protesting the outright invasion of privacy.
Dan Brown introduces you to the science of cryptology. He dramatizes it by making code breaking a romantic way of communicating between a couple. You learn about primitive codes, such as those used by Julius Caesar, and complex codes that require the worlds' most powerful computers to decipher.
Depicted in an entertaining and comical fashion are the geeks - the computer people who are born hackers and in charge of the security of America's most classified knowledge. Brown accurately portrays the typical geek who works late hours, does nerdy projects, eats unhealthy foods, and acts condescending towards others who are not geeks.
What is the difference between a computer virus and a worm? In a time of suspense, the geeks make this distinction. Not that it makes a difference for the average reader, but it's useful as general knowledge.
Some other general knowledge you gain from this book are some interesting facts about Prime numbers, the difference between the two atom bombs that were dropped on Japan, and some basic Latin.
If you have never traveled to Spain, Brown paints a fairly accurate picture of the country and the quaint town of Seville. You learn about Spain's police, bureaucracy, and bribes.
The story line is filled with lots of twists and turns, so if you think you can predict the ending, chances are you are mistaken. Although there are many killings of innocent people, the book has a happy ending bringing you back to the starting point.