RSA is the mainspring of the novel: A group of Pythagoreans, followers of the ancient mathematician Pythagoras, appear to have broken the RSA algorithm. Pythagoras is of course the man credited with the Pythagorean Theorem. But he was also a cult leader, inspirer of many utopias, possible coiner of the term “philosophy” and much else besides. My novel Tetraktys (named after a Pythagorean mystical symbol) is about the NSA’s effort to locate the Pythagoreans before they exploit their power in cyberspace toward a slowly gathering, dusky purpose.
The RSA Conference, with its thousands of attendees, is an emblem of the many layers and complexities of computer security today. Amid the jostle of people and products, it’s easy to forget that the bedrock is cryptography—encryption and digital signatures. And even when we do think about cryptography, it’s easy to forget the rich heritage, a golden thread of intellectual achievement that spans centuries and touches such far-flung fields as music, astronomy, and political science.
I wrote Tetraktys in part to capture the marvel and adventure, the abstract puzzles and strange stories that make our industry so interesting. If you read it, I hope that Tetraktys will serve as a reminder of these things. Perhaps you’ll approach your own job with a fresh glint in your eye.