Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

8/17/2016
03:30 PM
Connect Directly
Facebook
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

What Mr. Robot Can Teach Businesses About Security

By getting the underlying technology right, Mr. Robot producers understand they boost the show's credibility and give businesses and their customers a more realistic view of security, risk and the challenges of data protection.

Hollywood too often treats hackers like deus ex machina devices who get called in to fix a plot problem and essentially do something magical – and technologically impossible.

But Tanium's Andre McGregor and Ryan Kazanciyan, both technical advisors to the hacker drama Mr. Robot, said their input is sought before, during, and after scenes are shot. By getting the underlying technology right, the show's producers understand they boost the credibility of the characters and the series, which has won general praise from the hacker community and earned six Emmy nominations in its first season. And they may be helping to give businesses and their customers a more realistic view of security, risk, and the challenges of data protection.

If you're just tuning in, Mr. Robot is the story of Elliot Alderon, a socially challenged infosec professional with a double life as a vigilante hacker. He gets recruited to join an underground group of hackers ("Fight Club meets Anonymous/LulzSec," McGregor laughed during Tuesday's Q&A event about the technical aspects of the show), which wants his help bringing down the company he works for – and other evil corporations.

The FBI is usually one or two steps behind; McGregor used to work for the Bureau, which has a more prominent role in Season Two, and he's advised how the FBI agent characters should hold a gun, interview investigation subjects, and deal with surveillance. The set design also looks a lot like the FBI's real cybersquad office, McGregor said Tuesday.

Then there's all that plot material to be mined from today's headlines, since retailers, banks, media companies, and political organizations too often treat security as an afterthought, Kazanciyan said at Tuesday's online Q&A.

"I'd like to see customers change their behavior when they see their data is no longer safe, so that organizations don't treat security as an add-on -- something you don't need to bother with when you're in a hurry," Kazanciyan said. Most organizations, he added, are still struggling to handle security at a basic level, much less build it in from the inception.

Rogue devices (Elliot plants a Raspberry Pi behind a thermostat), rogue wireless networks, ransomware, and USB-borne malware all turn up in various plot lines. But frequently, Kazanciyan or McGregor will field a call from Kor Adana, technology producer for the show, with questions and clarifications about how hackers behave and speak. Sometime dialogue needs to be changed to make a scene more accurate or realistic, or just to be more true to the character, Kazanciyan said. "I can't say anything more without giving it away."

"I'm afraid of spoiler alerts," McGregor added. "My contract says $1 million per infraction! Just kidding."

McGregor and Kazanciyan were quick to note that all of Elliot's coding tricks and social engineering are drawn from real cases. "We're not showing anything that's magical or hasn't been thought of – it's all been done in the private sector or already written," McGregor added. And they're not worried about copycats since all the hacks are essentially in the public domain already.

The technical advisors are also careful to show that hacking requires long, sometimes tedious hours and that code doesn't always work right – or in the way it was intended.

"Hacking, even when it's well planned and executed, is not without repercussions, which is a core theme for this season," Kazanciyan said. "Good offense informs good defense when it's done properly. But even the best-laid plans have some blowback," he said, referring both to real life and the hacks on the show.

Related Content:

Terry Sweeney is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered technology, networking, and security for more than 20 years. He was part of the team that started Dark Reading and has been a contributor to The Washington Post, Crain's New York Business, Red Herring, ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Cyberattacks Are Tailored to Employees ... Why Isn't Security Training?
Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian,  6/17/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Powerful Cybersecurity Skills the Energy Sector Needs Most
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer,  6/22/2021
News
Microsoft Disrupts Large-Scale BEC Campaign Across Web Services
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21574
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Dell BIOSConnect feature contains a buffer overflow vulnerability. An authenticated malicious admin user with local access to the system may potentially exploit this vulnerability to run arbitrary code and bypass UEFI restrictions.
CVE-2021-32708
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Flysystem is an open source file storage library for PHP. The whitespace normalisation using in 1.x and 2.x removes any unicode whitespace. Under certain specific conditions this could potentially allow a malicious user to execute code remotely. The conditions are: A user is allowed to supply the pa...
CVE-2020-18667
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
SQL Injection vulnerability in WebPort <=1.19.1 via the new connection, parameter name in type-conn.
CVE-2021-21571
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Dell UEFI BIOS https stack leveraged by the Dell BIOSConnect feature and Dell HTTPS Boot feature contains an improper certificate validation vulnerability. A remote unauthenticated attacker may exploit this vulnerability using a person-in-the-middle attack which may lead to a denial of service and p...
CVE-2021-21572
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Dell BIOSConnect feature contains a buffer overflow vulnerability. An authenticated malicious admin user with local access to the system may potentially exploit this vulnerability to run arbitrary code and bypass UEFI restrictions.