While Mr. Robot made a name for itself with the realism of its hacks (in addition to the gripping storylines and the whole package), it does tend to lean on the technical side. I mean, spoofing keystrokes via BlueTooth? Heavy usage of Kali Linux instead of viewer-friendly UIs? A device called “Raspberry Pi”? Onion routers? Not exactly household names in the technology world and I often find myself just nodding at whatever they do on the latest ep and having to rummage through Google afterwards just to pick up on the technobabble.
Every once in a while, the show throws the non-techy viewers a bone like that “low jack” software from Season One that Tyrell surreptitiously installed on their secretary’s phone – it’s readily available and incredibly easy to install, although by “easy” I still mean being creative enough to somehow sneak that in to your spouse’s smartphone or whichever unlucky recipient you intend to eavesdrop on.
Season Two doesn’t have much emphasis on hacks unlike the previous one wherein there are layers and layers of hacking exploits (pun intended), except for the Pwn phone hack, that ultimately led to the death of credit cards and the slow downfall of E Corp. If there are hacks, it’s usually not as highly technical as before. And with just two episodes left on the season, I think it’s fair now to make a run down of the best “low tech” hacks of the season.
Episode 10: “eps1.9zer0-daY.avi”
If we’re going to rely on hacker stereotypes, then a Pringles can should be an indispensable part of their arsenal already – be it as their gluttonous go-to sustenance or as a powerful Wi-Fi antenna at no cost. Known as “Cantennas” (a portmanteau of “antenna” and “can” obviously), it’s an inexpensive way to boost the range of your Wi-Fi receiver, perfect for “war driving” or leeching off the farthest possible default, unsecured Linksys network to cover your tracks. It’s strange that Elliot has to resort to this though, when he pretty much has Joanna’s deep pockets at his disposal and he can get an actual range booster – but hey, McGyver is the shit.
QR Code Doodle
Episode 1: “eps2.0unm4sk-pt1.tc”
Even your mom and pop (assuming they have smartphones) are likely aware of this oddly-designed but ubiquitous bar code. Typically, QR codes are used as shortcuts to websites which you can access by scanning the code through your phone which then fires up your mobile browser. In this case, the QR code in question is found meticulously doodled in Elliot’s notebook and points to heavily 90s-designed homepage purportedly created by a pre-adolescent Elliot that’s chock-full of Easter eggs and references that have many still trying to decipher it until today. It does require an advanced knowledge of source codes and attention to detail though so it’s not exactly an “easy” hack entirely.
Episode 10: “eps1.9zer0-daY.avi”
It couldn’t get any lower tech than this. It’s a website readily-accessible for a few bucks that empowers not just creepy stalkers but social engineers, as Elliot oh so deviously displayed in this episode. Once you purchase a subscription, you can just enter an email address or phone number and you can easily pull up all the social media accounts or pertinent details associated with the small data you have provided, in a snap. Let’s just hope that this “hack” pays off and actually leads to something concrete on Tyrell; they’ve stretched this mystery long enough.
Episode 8: “eps2.6succ3ss0r.p12”
Secure messenger apps are a dime-a-dozen. “Snapchat” is undoubtedly the most popular example and possibly the innovator. But it’s too mainstream of a reference for Mr. Robot, not to mention a reputation for seedy material, so the show went with the app “Wickr” instead for Trenton and Mobley to swap self-destructing messages as they elude the authorities and the Dark Army. Time will tell if the pair were able to get away but it’s worth noting that Mobley committed a small lapse by erasing the phone and dropping it on someone’s bag rather than wiping the contents and destroying the phone. Haven’t we learned from Prison Break’s Michael Scofield that you don’t leave any drives intact?!
Exposing Deep Web
Episode 7: “eps2.5h4ndshake.sme”
The last few episodes after discovering the grim reality of Ray’s Silk Road-ish operation have been hell for Elliot, essentially performing slave labor in a fashion just as disturbing as Jesse Pinkman on a white supremacist’s warehouse. Elliot however, had a trick up his sleeve to get him off this mess – alerting the authorities to his location by making the unindexed “deep web” marketplace publicly accessible. Elliot didn’t go into specifics on how he pulled this off exactly, considering that Google is wiser and stricter when it comes to websites that want to weasel their way to the top of the rankings, it’s not as simple as having your website crawled – but if part of it is similar to how bloggers can easily publicize one’s WordPress, then this is one of the easiest “hacks” on the show.