The Five Best Hacks in Mr. Robot
After debuting in the summer of 2015, Mr. Robot has amassed an insane amount of fanfare, critical acclaim, and even a Golden Globe in such a short span. Much of the praise concern its timely capitalist themes of economic and income inequality.
But a large amount of credit also goes to the show’s incredible attention to detail, thanks to creator Sam Esmail, who made it a personal goal to do right by the hacker community and being as close to realistic as possible.
Here are just five of some of the best hacks performed on the show.
5. Smartphone Spyware
The “backdoor” (no pun intended) Tyrell Wellick installed on a secretary’s smartphone in “d3bug” is undoubtedly one of the less technical examples of hacking on the show, but it’s one of the best for scary reasons – it exists, and is commercially available mostly by premium subscription. It’s called “FlexiSPY” and, like Tyrell showed, can be installed in just a few minutes. Its sheer ability to monitor any possible phone activity from reading SMS messages and recording voice calls to performing remote functions, it touches on a major concern among smartphone owners who value their privacy. We will later see similar exploits on the show such as the infected CD that will later be used to procure webcam shots of Angela as well as the malware USB sticks dropped by Darlene in the police station.
4. Social Media Hacks
Social media is a frequent source of comedy in the show, mostly because it’s relatable. Almost everyone has a Facebook or Instagram account as well as that “friend” who’s a total tool. It gets better when Elliot goes down to the nitty-gritty by hacking into the innards of his target’s profile, unveiling their horribly unimaginative password choices (making brute-force cracking look less “brutish”) to their deepest, darkest secrets, which he then uses to carry out his initial vigilante escapades.
3. Removing The Honeypot
In one of the season’s more tension-filled moments, Elliot had to get the Dark Army back into the game (in a very limited time) by disabling the honeypot on Allsafe’s server during the episode “wh1ter0se”. While a crucial hack required help from Darlene, the plan hinged entirely on Elliot creating a ticket request under Gideon’s name – but with the two-factor authentication posed by the company’s RSA SecurID, Elliot needed to get creative with this one, spamming Gideon’s phone with over a hundred MMS files to force his boss to charge the phone and granting him physical access to the one-time password.
2. Prison Break
Hacking isn’t all hunky dory all the time. A lot of it is painstaking trial and error from guessing combinations and weaknesses to pushing the right buttons in social engineering – and the episode “br4ve-trave1er” perfectly encapsulates this. It wasn’t going well for Elliot’s attempts to break Fernando Vera out of prison at first – their tactic of dropping infected USB drives failed to work after being flagged by the computer’s antivirus software and the prison’s Wi-Fi network utilizes WPA2 security making it virtually impenetrable in such short time frame. Fortunately, Elliot was able to find a crack via a patrol car’s errant Bluetooth signal, and that’s all she wrote for the prison’s cell door systems.
1. The Attack on Steel Mountain
It’s one of the most elaborate and structured hacks on the show by far, and it’s no surprise why Fsociety’s plan to infiltrate E Corp’s Steel Mountain data-storage facility takes the top spot. Most viewers associate this episode with the use of a customized Raspberry Pi to remotely control the facility’s climate control systems and render the tape backups unusable, but it’s also impressive how they got there in the first place. The plan required the use of an RFID cloner to gain access to the gate, followed by plenty of social-engineering mastery like fabricating a Wikipedia biography to manipulating Bill extensively, and later spoofing a text message to get the supervisor to abandon her post. It wasn’t beautiful (Elliot’s shrinking violet act jeopardized their social-engineering attempts a number of times) but it all worked out in the end – and magnificently.