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How to protect yourself against Mr Robot and F Society

To celebrate the third season of Mr Robot coming exclusively to Lightbox today at 7pm, here are some of the ways you can protect yourself against the vigilante hacking groups coming for your double chin selfies. 

Today, after little more than a live E-Coin launch and a cryptic loaded tweet from the director to the President of the United States, Mr Robot returns for a third season. From the twisted mind of showrunner Sam Esmail, Mr Robot has proved over its two seasons that it is a lot of things. It’s an unrelenting study of mental illness and adiction. It’s a paranoid cyber thriller that would make anyone look over their shoulder before they write their passcode into their phone. It’s also eerily prophetic, with multiple storylines mirroring news stories and the general chaos and corruption in the digital age.

Finally, as The Spinoff and many others have covered at length, Mr Robot is incredibly accurate in its depiction of hacking. So much so, that those in the IRL cybersecurity business are starting to take notice. Take RedShield, a company based in Wellington, who took their presentation ‘Mastering Mr Robot – Hacking Like a TV Star’ to the 16th Annual AusCert Cyber Security Conference earlier this year. If you’ve got a spare half hour, it left me feeling about as confident in my hacking skills as I was about pulling off a messy bun after watching one two minute tutorial.  

Unfortunately, just like the bun, I realised afterwards that I was nowhere near as expert as I thought. I reached out to Kirk Jackson at RedShield and asked him to take me, a bonafide tech idiot, through some of the real-world hacks from Mr Robot. Here are just a few to look out for if you ever think f society is on your tail.

#1 LOOK OUT FOR YOUR SWIPE CARDS (as seen in eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv)

According to Mr Robot, all it takes is a nifty wee device and a brazen brush up against a stranger with a swipe card in their pocket to replicate as many building access cards as you want. Is it really this easy? Kirk from RedShield explains that Elliot uses a Proxmark device which “can read and write many different card formats” and basically clone any unencrypted card.

“Businesses shouldn’t assume that their access systems are secure,” explains Kirk, “there’s a pretty high chance that the technology is old and only updated every 10-20 years.” Your encrypted HOP and Snapper cards are safe as houses, but that hasn’t stopped it happening to transport cards here in the past. Same goes for Paywave, although there are readers out there that can transmit over a wider distance, and can potentially make purchases on your card while it’s still nestled in your wallet.

“Ordinary folk probably don’t have to worry too much,” says Kirk, “just be wary of anyone with large antenna nearby.”

#2 LOOK OUT FOR YOUR MOBILE NETWORK (as kind of seen in eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes)

When hacking a group of FBI agents, Angela in Mr Robot uses a Femtocell, a small cell tower that you can buy and set up in the comfort of your own home. Simply pop it in and wait for your targets’ phones to automatically connect when they are in the area, then get to hacking (I cannot help you with the hacking).

This is not how hacking works

“The main issue with femtocells,” says Kirk, “is that if your phone is in roaming mode, it might connect to someone else’s cell tower instead of the proper one.” If you are indeed a member of the FBI and think f society is after you, try disabling roaming just to be sure that wily Angela isn’t up to her sneaky ways inside your telephone.

#3 LOOK OUT FOR YOUR USB PORTS (as seen in eps2.7_init_5.fve)

Later in season two, old scapegoat Angela is back at it again by plugging in a USB Rubber Ducky – not as cute as it sounds – to steal all the admin passwords inside EvilCorp. “The rubber ducky pretends to be a keyboard,” says Kirk, “and can type information into a computer, run programs, and copy data.” Instead of looking like I imagined, the Rubber Ducky can even disguise itself as a Rubber Mousey, inviting an unknowing victim to plug it in and be none the wiser. Argh! What can we do? “The only real thing you can do is be vigilant, not plug USB devices into your computer, and keep it locked when you’re not using it.” Not today, Ducky Satan.


Click below to hack into Mr Robot, available express every Thursday night exclusively on Lightbox:

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