EDITORIAL: The Real Life Tech Behind MR. ROBOT
This season of MR.ROBOT has provided a plethora of real life tools that can be purchased or downloaded for free and infosec expert @bcoates703 is here to explain some of them to us.
Editor’s/Writer’s Note: As with any post about this type of technology, all of the tools, skills, techniques mentioned here are for educational purposes only. Do not use them on systems if their owners have not given you explicit permission to inspect or test their security. And in the great words of Young Jeezy, “if you get locked up don’t mention my name.”
Mr. Robot has often been lauded as the most realistic depiction of hacking and hacking culture presented on any screen, large or small. And when you go against things such as this the bar is pretty low:
Every computer has an operating system and while most people are familiar with Windows 10 or Apple’s iOS software, most hackers prefer Linux – more specifically Kali Linux. If you ever want to go down a rabbit hole, look up the different flavors of Linux and check out a tech board where people will argue passionately over them (other flame wars include: vim vs emacs, systemd, or tabs vs spaces). However, Kali Linux is preferred because it is a linux distribution that is designed specifically for penetration testing. Many of the programs that a hacker would use are already installed and somewhat configured. Many of the tools that will be discussed below are also already included. Kali Linux can be found here and they even offer free classes to learn how to use it.
You know how it looks like people are typing incredibly fast as they are hacking through firewall after firewall in order to get the plans of the Death Star before they are found out? Well, now you too can do that without even touching the keyboard!
In Season Two, Episode 6, Angela is getting her hacking crash course and is instructed if all else fails she can place the rubber ducky into an FBI computer and leave it for 15 seconds. This device is a real. Before it is used, a hacker can pre-program it with commands to be run once the thumbdrive is plugged into the victim’s computer. It works because computers are pretty trusting (read: insecure) and don’t know if the thumb-drive is a keyboard or a USB. The ducky responds with both options and will then act as a keyboard, firing off all of the commands that have been pre-programmed. It also does this at the speed of Bizzy Bone so a lot can be done in a short amount of time.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is instant messenger system that’s been around since before AIM – yeah, it is that old. It has been used multiple times in the show as a way for the hackers to communicate with each other secretly. The reason they can do that is because they control the server that facilitates the communication between all parties. An outsider can not get on the server unless they are invited and any communication to the server is sent over encrypted channels. In the show, and in general, this happens on a command line, which is the black box with colored text moving fast that hackers are always typing in. Slack is IRC 2.0, it is a much prettier, faster and user-friendly chat app that borrows a lot from IRC, including channels beginning with hashtags and chats that one can only participate in if they are invited.
These are just a few of the tools that are used in real life that have been featured in the show but with Season Three of Mr. Robot now confirmed, I’m sure we’ll be sharing many more in the future.