Financial Ruin: Private and Public Encryption Keys: What Does It Mean: Fatal Encryption by Debra Purdy Kong


Fatal Encryption by Debra Purdy Kong

Reviewed by Fran Lewis

There are many ways that corporations and even the FBI and CIA hide information from the public to insure our safety. But, there are many hackers or as the more dangerous are called crackers who can decipher and break the codes or infiltrate the information to attack our country or destroy a company with one stroke on a computer keyboard.

Encryption means you make the files unreadable and no one can access them unless they have an encryption key. The files will stay encrypted until they are unencrypted and allow the company to do business with them unless the hackers find a way to permanently place a lock on them. This is not only true of financial records information imparted through any communication system. How frightening!

This brings me to my review of a mind stimulating and important novel, Fatal Encryption by Debra Purdy Kong. With the world as it is today and so many countries including our own having to worry about too much information being imparted over the airwaves and to the public, this novel definitely gives us pause for thought and much contemplation. How can we protect our financial institutions and our businesses from hackers? Are their private encryption keys that are so powerful that no one can get into them or decrypt the messages that are being sent? After you read this novel you decide just how safe we are and what you think needs to be done to make sure that what might happen in this novel does not happen to you.

To what lengths would someone go to ruin a company? Why would anyone want to ruin McKinley’s Department Stores? How can a hacker or cracker as they call them get into the financial records of a company’s financial computer system and delete them? How can this same person manage to encrypt the files and then unencrypted them until they decide to permanently delete them? Who is blackmailing and threatening the McKinley’s for 10 million dollars if they want their system to be up and operational? Someone wants to permanently encrypt the store’s data and burn it to the ground if they do not receive this money? There are so many suspects and so many that want to derail the company, the owners and many who work for them. Just who? I won’t tell.

Enter Alex Bellamy computer system analyst and main character of this novel. His job is to find out who the hacker is and possibly find out who killed Zachary Ternoway and why. Practical jokes and pranks played by this person, emails that change the numbers on accounts and files and more will keep Alex busy and possibly away embroiled in something quite dangerous. But the suspect’s mount up and time is running short and the end result would be catastrophic if the key to encryption key is not found. But who has it and how will he get in time will keep you guessing until the very end.

The activity of converting from plain text to a code is what this person is doing to the financial files and records of this company. In designing security systems, it is wise to assume that the details of the cryptographic algorithm are already available to the attacker.  The cryptographic system can use two different keys. One is the public key, which is known to everyone. The other key is the private or secret key known only to the person receiving the message. When someone sends a message to person A, person B uses person A’s public key to encrypt the message. Then person A who receives the message uses his/her private key to decrypt. The public and private keys are related in such a way that only the public and private keys are related in such a way that only this public key can be used to encrypt messages the private key uses to decrypt it. Having this proper key will enable you to unscramble the message according a formula or algorithm so that it can be read. It, But, having a key that is the right one is not easy and is often difficult to find.

This is the dilemma facing our main character Alex Bellamy and his assistant Tristan.  Hired to do the impossible they  have 2 weeks to find out who the hacker or cracker is that is manipulating the files and controlling the financial records of this company before they are totally encrypted or locked on December 1st.  With the company’s owners fighting to see who will take charge after the death of their father, and a sister who is trying to keep everything in place it will be difficult for Alex and his team to uncover the mystery behind this and more. Added to the mix is the murder of a man whose brother was fired from this company and both are noted drug abusers.

There are many who would profit from this happening. The heads of the company have many secrets of their own. One is liquidating his assets and having an affair with his executive assistant. He is using these funds to go into another business. His sister, has decided to resign from the business and pursue other interests but not until she finds out with the help of her latest boyfriend and Alex who is behind the threatening letters to the company, the corruption and the emails. But, that is not going to be easy for Alex, Tristan and many of the others to uncover.

A controller, named Oscar with his own private agenda. A security guard with a vendetta against the owners, Lena his girlfriend who is more of a gossip and liability than trustworthy and an ex-girlfriend who appears to be on his side and wants to help. So many players and so many more that it is difficult for Alex to know who to trust, including the owners.

Zachary is killed as the story opens. His brother Max, who was planning to extort ten million dollars from the company and he told him not to do it. A security guard who was angry because he was not promoted and decided to take the store’s emails with the financial data and make sure the numbers changed when the recipient opens them.

Alex is up to his neck in suspects and people with motives to want to take this company down. With so little time he enlists the help of Lucas one of the former analysts, who claims he might have the right encryption algorithm and he claims he is putting together a program to help crack it, or is he?

Relating the murder of Zachary and later that of Carl who changed the passwords on all of the company’s computers, the list of suspects grows and the link between the financial problems at McKinley’s seems to intertwine. With one owner who wants to sell off some of the stores and another who wants to expand the end result will definitely astound the reader. Max and his partner threatened to set fire to the Vancouver store if he does not get the 10 million dollars.

Murder, arson, extortion, blackmail, deceit and distrust and more face Alex and Tristan and hamper their investigation into who wants to permanently encrypt these files and destroy these stores. No one is safe, Alex, Tristan and Elizabeth targeted by the arsonist. The executive assistant having an affair with Winston the owner is attacked and the danger is not over for anyone.

The systems analyst, Graydon and his wife Celeste, in on the plot from the beginning and the extortion along with Max trying to ruin the McKinley’s each with their own motive and reason. Graydon pretending to want to help but in reality having the answers to what Alex needed to solve the case and save the company. Just how each player fits in and what part each plays you will have to read for yourself.

How all the pieces of this encrypted puzzle are finally decrypted and read you will have to read this thought provoking page turner. What does an observant child see from her room on Halloween night help put the pieces in place? Not until the last chapter and the very last few pages will you understand and learn the motive behind the fires, the murders and might  cause a company to fall victim to a Fatal Encryption and more.

Well- written and suspenseful thriller that leaves the reader waiting for a sequel to this great novel and hoping to see what happens next to Alex and Tristan. I never give stars to great novels and I won’t give stars to this one either. I give this author Five Public and Five Private Encryption Keys to help Alex solve any computer problems he might face in the future.

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