Tag Archives: Mr. Robot

Tonight Mr. Robot is Going to Reveal ‘Dream Device For Hackers’

Mr. Robot is the rare show that provides a realistic depiction of hacks and vulnerabilities that are at the forefront of cyber security. This is the reason it’s been the most popular TV show of its kind.

Throughout season 1 and season 2, we have seen that connected devices are the entry point of choice of Elliot and fsociety to breach networks and traditional security controls.

Pwn Phone On

Mr. Robot was our favorite show of 2015

Back in May, I pulled my new copy of Entertainment Weekly out of the mailbox and flipped through it quickly, as I usually do before sitting down to read the whole thing. An article about an unusual premier of a new TV show called Mr. Robot caught my eye. The cyberthriller’s pilot episode was set to make its debut online and through alternative viewing services like Xfinity On Demand, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, XBOX, and Google Play almost a month earlier than its USA Network television debut on June 24.

USA Network's Mr. Robot tops all the 'Best TV show of 2015' lists

Mr. Robot tops all the ‘Best TV show of 2015′ lists

The next Monday morning, I shared the news about the show with my colleagues, and we all vowed to watch the new drama about a cybersecurity expert who joins an underground hacker group, as soon as we could. We hoped it would be a more realistic version of the security issues we face today than CSI: Cyber or any number of Hollywood movies. We even contemplated having a weekly viewing party with Avast Virus Lab researchers and getting their comments live, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000, if the show was good.

A twist in the plot

The very next day after the initial discussion, one of my colleagues, and regular blog writer, Stefanie Smith, received an email from a Mr. Robot production staff member asking if we would be interested in having an Avast antivirus product make an appearance on one of the upcoming episodes. At the time, a few weeks before the pilot episode even aired, this was a difficult call – but our decision to be a part of the show, even for a brief moment, proved to be the right one.

Mr. Robot has consistently been named one of 2015’s best TV shows, and it received Golden Globe nominations for Best Series, Best Actor for Rami Malek, and Best Supporting Actor for Christian Slater.

We didn’t watch it together with the Virus Lab guys, but every week after the show, we got their expert opinions about the hacks depicted on Mr. Robot. Here’s some of our favorite moments from season one:

1.     Avast guest stars on Mr. Robot

Mr_Robot_03The show’s protagonist, Elliot, attempts to hack into a prison’s network, and fellow hacker, Darlene, helps him by uploading an exploit onto USB sticks. She drops the sticks on the ground, and a police officer picks one up and foolishly inserts it into his work PC. The idea was to inject a customized payload to compromise and gain access to the prison’s network – and then BAM! Avast detects the exploit!

2.     Operation Meltdown


via USA Network

Elliot wants to control the Steel Mountain secure data facility’s climate control system to overheat it, thus melting ECorp’s tape-based backup. He uses a complicated gateway-impersonating MiTM (man in the middle) attack, ‘Raspberry Pi’, to accomplish his goal. He eventually connects Raspberry Pi to Steel Mountain’s heating and cooling systems. This 3xpl0its.wmv plot is reminiscent of the point of entry in the real-world Target attack.

3.     “People make the best exploits”

via USA Network

via USA Network

One of cybercrooks most successful methods is social engineering; psychological techniques used to exploit human weaknesses. Throughout the show’s episodes we saw examples of this technique. Even among the more sophisticated hacks, these are the ones that freaked us out the most.

Hackers want your personal information

Elliot uses a password-cracking tool many times on the show. On one occasion, he wants to hack his therapist’s new boyfriend, Michael. He calls Michael pretending to be from his bank’s fraud department, confirming his address and asking him security questions to verify his account: What is his favorite baseball team? His pet’s name? Using the information he gathered combined with a dictionary brute force attack, which systematically checks all possible passwords until the correct one is found, Elliot hacks Michael’s account.

Hackers want to steal company data

In episode d3bug.mkv, one of Elliot’s colleagues, Ollie, received a music CD from a fake rapper that turns out to have malware on it. The infection that resulted gave ‘The Dark Army’ access to Ollie’s laptop webcam which was used to spy on him and his girlfriend, Angela. The hacker tells Ollie he has photos of Angela, and even Angela’s and her dad’s banking information and social security number. He threatens to blackmail Ollie if he does not spread the malware within his employer, Allsafe’s, systems.


4.     Mobile devices are vulnerable

via USA Network

via USA Network

ECorp baddie, Tyrell, uses a backdoor to get into assistant Anwar’s Android device to install an app that could allow remote access. It’s not strictly necessary to root the phone – just gaining physical access to the phone is all he needed. In this episode, Tyrell used an SD card with an application called RooterFrame to gain access, but the actual Android APK is Framaroot.

Elliot needs to remove a hacked server in episode wh1ter0se.m4v, but has to do it by creating an Allsafe service ticket. This request requires his boss, Gideon, to send the ticket, and he uses two-factor authentication to receive a temporary, second code sent to his phone. Elliot asks Darlene to send Gideon’s phone hundreds of MMS files to drain the battery, forcing him to charge it- and leave it in his office unattended. Elliot takes physical possession of the device, gets the security token and logs into Gideon’s account to submit a request to take down the server.

5.     Real-life physical hacks

Elliot picks the bathroom lock. He explains that “the lock-pick is every hacker’s favorite sport. Unlike virtual systems, when you break it you can feel it.”

Avast was the only roadblock that Elliot ran into that he couldn’t beat. You can protect your own PCs, Android devices, and Macs with Avast Antivirus products. Our flagship product, Avast Free Antivirus, was chosen as PCMag’s Editors’ Choice 2016 for the best free antivirus. Visit the Avast website to check out all our security software.

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Mr. Robot Review: m1rr0ring.qt

This week’s episode of Mr. Robot continued from where it left off last week, focusing on the show’s characters rather than hacking methods. We see Elliot struggle with himself as he figures out that Mr. Robot is his dad (who died years ago), who he has been imagining in his mind. Meanwhile, Tyrell’s world is crumbling. His wife gave birth to a baby boy, but tells him she does not want to be with him unless he “fixes things”. He then gets fired from E Corp and remains as the prime suspect in Sharon’s murder investigation. It doesn’t look like Tyrell did a very good job of fixing things, if you ask me…

Despite the lack of hacking, I did have a few questions about the final scene of the episode. I spoke with my colleague, senior malware analyst Jaromir Horejsi, who helped me better understand FSociety’s plan.

via: USA Networks - Mr. Robot airs on USA, Wednesdays at 10/9 central

In the last scene of the episode, Tyrell pays Elliot a visit. Tyrell tells Elliot about how he murdered Sharon and how surprisingly good that felt. Elliot then decides to tell Tyrell about his plan to take down E Corp. Elliot explains to him that by encrypting all of E Corp’s files, all of their financial records will be impossible to access as the encryption key will self-delete after the process completes.

Stefanie: Clearly, E Corp is in some pretty big trouble if this plan succeeds, but could something like this happen to the average user? How disastrous would it be if, for example, if my personal computer’s data were to be encrypted?

Jaromir: Ransomware is a common and nasty form of malware that encrypts data and demands a ransom, as the name suggests. We have seen many cases of ransomware on PCs and mobile devices. Encrypted data is impossible to decrypt unless you have the encryption key, which is pretty disastrous if you ask me.

Stefanie: What is an encryption key and what should I do if my data is encrypted by ransomware?

Jaromir: An encryption key is information that is needed for the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm or cipher. You can think of encryption as a vault or door that is locked and the encryption key is the key or combination to open the vault or door, and in the case of encryption, to decrypt data. If your device is infected with ransomware you can a) delete the ransomware by using an antivirus rescue disc, b) reboot into safe mode and remove it manually or c) reboot using another operating system stored on an external disc. Once this is done, you can restore your data, using your backed up files. This is why it is important to always back up your data! More importantly, you should have antivirus software installed on all of your devices — PC and mobile — to prevent ransomware from infecting your device in the first place!

We highly discourage paying ransom, as this proves to cybercriminals that their methods are effective and encourages them to continue spreading ransomware.

Stefanie: What happens to the encryption key in ransomware? Does it also self-delete?

Jaromir: If cybercriminals do their job correctly, so to speak, the encryption key should be deleted by the ransomware, similar to what Elliot programed his encryption program to do. Ransomware typically generates a key and uses it to encrypt files. The ransomware then encrypts the encryption key with the attacker’s public key and sends the encrypted key to the attacker. Once this is done,and the files on the infected device are encrypted, the ransomware securely deletes the encryption key from the infected device, meaning that the attacker is the only one who has the encryption key that can decrypt the encrypted files on the infected device.  

Thank you, Jaromir, for taking the time to speak with me. :-)

What did you guys think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!

Mr. Robot Review: v1ew-s0urce.flv

This week’s episode was pretty intense — although not so many hacks took place, this week focused on meaningful development of the show’s characters. The episode opened with a flashback to when Elliot and Shayla met; we now know where he got his fish and that he is the reason Shayla got involved with Vera. Then we move onto Angela, who has gone forward with her plan to get justice for her mom’s death, but she isn’t the only one on a mission. Tyrell continued in his fight to become CTO of E Corp – going a little too far (even for his own comfort) during his private time with Sharon, the wife of the newly-appointed E Corp CTO.

Despite the fact that there were no major hacks, there were a few interesting scenes I sat down to talk about with my colleague, Filip Chytry, security researcher at Avast.

via: USA Networks

Minute 10:30: Gideon tries to talk to Elliot about his grieving over Shayla. Elliot recalls how he got into web design by ripping off sites he liked by copying their source code and then modifying that code. He then wonders what it would be like if there were a “view source” option for people. We then see people in the AllSafe office walking around with signs around their necks that say things like “I love feet” or “I got a nose job”.

Stefanie: This scene with people walking around with their “source code” amused me. Do you think it would be a good idea if we could see people’s source code as easily as we can view website source codes? And I have to ask, what would your source code be Filip?

Filip: There is a saying, “some things are better left unsaid” and in this case I would say, “some things are better left unknown”. As we saw in the scene, some people’s source code is a little too private to be seen by the world and in the digital age,we share enough of our private lives that there is no need to go that far. As for my source code… I would rather not say, but I think it would involve sports, chocolate, or cars.

Stefanie: Do hackers ever leave clues or messages in their code?

Filip: Yes, they occasionally do! My colleague Jan analyzed Android malware, XBot, at the beginning of the year. In the code, the malware author left a clear and rather unpleasant message for antivirus companies. We guessed that he was a little bitter about us blocking his masterpieces.

Minute 25:40: Darlene is summoned for a meeting with Cisco. He is upset that she hacked him to contact White Rose from the Dark Army using his handle.

Stefanie: Darlene is such a rebel! Can you help me understand how she ended up communicating with the Dark Army using Cisco’s handle?

Filip: She hacked his router. She probably figured out which router he was using and exploited a vulnerability to get into the router. Today’s router security situation is similar to PCs in the 1990s — new router vulnerabilities are discovered every day. From there, she got ahold of his IP address by looking at his router’s past communication. Getting into the channel, which I am guessing is either a forum or chat, using his handle depends on how hidden the channel is, and if the “Dark Army” is involved, I am guessing this wasn’t very simple.

Stefanie: Wow! Routers are the center point of households nowadays, with Internet-connected devices all connecting to the router itself. What can people do to protect themselves?

Filip: It’s simple, really — they can use Avast’s Home Network Security scanner! Home Network Security exposes weak or default passwords, vulnerable routers, compromised Internet connections, and enabled, but not protected, IPv6. Home Network Security provides guidelines explaining how to fix vulnerabilities to make sure your network is fully protected…something Cisco (Darlene’s ex boyfriend on Mr. Robot, not the router manufacturer!) should consider doing. ;)

Minute 38:05: Darlene goes to meet with fellow FSociety member, Trenton, to convince her to re-join the cause. Trenton asks Darlene if she has ever thought about which part of the FSociety scheme motivates her. Trenton then describes what she thinks motivates the other members: momentary anarchy, palling around, and fame.

Stefanie: What do you think motivates hackers?

Filip: Back in the day, hackers used be motivated by fame – hacking for the sake of proving something can be hacked –but the game has since changed. Hackers are now more motivated by financial gain and steal money from accounts, hold data hostage for ransom or steal customer data from major corporations to sell on the black market of the Internet. The days of famous hackers are basically over because nowadays, hackers want their identities to remain anonymous in order to keep committing cybercrime.  

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!


Mr. Robot Review: br4ve-trave1er.asf

This week’s episode of Mr. Robot was an exciting one for us here at Avast – our product made an appearance on the show! In addition to the exploit Avast blocked, there were many other interesting hacks in this week’s episode, which I discussed with Avast security experts, Filip Chytry and Jiri Sejtko.


Minute 7:00: Elliot is in his apartment with Isaac and DJ. Something about Vera’s brother, Isaac, bugs Elliot and what does Elliot do when he is bugged by someone? He hacks them!

Stefanie: We see Elliot once again turn to the Linux distribution, Kali, to hack Isaac’s cell phone. He seems to do this within a matter of seconds, how easy is this to do?  Later on, when Elliot visits Vera in prison, we learn what Elliot plans to auto-send information from Isaac’s phone to himself. This seems really intrusive and couldn’t Isaac just get a new phone?

Filip Chytry: This is a more advanced hack and unless Elliot had everything prepped before they entered his apartment, this would taken a lot more time to execute (but this is a TV show, so things sometimes happen faster on TV then they do IRL). The Linux distribution Kali, a popular tool for penetration testing, can be used to plant code on a device. But, Isaac’s phone would have had to be connected to either Elliot’s Wi-Fi network or Elliot could have set up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot using a popular network name like “Starbucks Wi-Fi” or “ATT Wi-Fi”, a Wi-Fi network Isaac’s phone had connected to before and would connect to automatically. Elliot would then use Kali to exploit a vulnerability in Isaac’s phone and plant code to send information from the phone to Elliot’s chosen destination. Since Elliot told Vera about this, Vera could have told Isaac and Isaac could have gotten a new phone, but Isaac was not given a happy end in this episode…

Minute 11:30: Elliott tries to find a way to hack into the prison’s network. Darlene helps him by uploading an exploit onto USB sticks. The USB sticks are branded with E-Corp’s logo, to look trustworthy. She drops the USB sticks on the prison’s parking lot. A police officer takes one of the sticks and inserts it into his work PC. First, a window appears saying “get your free $100 eTunes gift card”, and then a window asking him what his favorite music genre is appears. He clicks through several questions – and then BAM! Avast detects the exploit!


Stefanie: Watching this scene, we couldn’t be prouder. Avast detects an exploit in Mr. Robot, this is so exciting! Taking a closer look at Avast’s warning pop-up, we can see the exploit was a Trojan: JS:ScriptPE-inf (Trj) Is this actually a Trojan that exists or is this made up?

Jiri: This is a real detection. The detection is triggered by an HTML or Javascript file that contains a URL that Avast blocks, as it includes a malicious file. It is, however, hard to say what the URL contained. I would expect it to be some kind of exploit that tries to exploit a vulnerability on the officer’s machine, in order to execute code that would give Elliot access to the prison network.

Minute 31:38: Elliot runs an undetectable activated signal sniffer that will locate any wireless signal in sight on his phone while it is at the prison’s security desk. When Elliot exits the prison, he checks the data retrieved from the sniffer and is disappointed to see that the prison’s network uses WPA2 encryption.

Stefanie: Elliot mentions that WPA2 is “borderline unhackable” and then he mentions a handshake? Is WPA2 encryption really that secure and what handshake is he referring to?

Filip: WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access and WPA2 is WPA’s successor, which uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). WPA is the best encryption currently available for Wi-Fi, so when Elliot says it is border line unhackable, he means it! There is one way WPA2 can be hacked, but, as Elliot mentions, it takes a long time to do. When a client connects to an access point, a four-way handshake happens, encrypting messages to confirm that both parties know the so called PSK (pre-shared key) and PMK (pairwise master key), without revealing them. In order to hack a WPA2 protected network, you have to capture and decrypt the authentication handshake. Capturing the handshake can be easy but the decryption can be difficult, depending on the Wi-Fi network’s password complexity. 

After Elliot gives up on the idea of hacking into the prison’s Wi-Fi, a police car drives by and automatically connects to his smartphone. He says “The mobile feed on the cameras… I don’t need to hack WPA when there is dedicated 4G”. Later, in minute 35:40, we see Elliot hacking a police patrol car. His plan is to connect to the “patrol car’s bluetooth to run the exploit on the PLC”. He is successful and gives the order “at 9:49, all the cell doors should open”.

Stefanie: What’s a PLC?

Jiri: PLC stands for “programmable logic controller”, it’s a computer usually used in industrial environments. The most famous PLC attack vector is probably Stuxnet, which was designed to monitor Siemens machines in Iranian nuclear facilities and manipulate the centrifuge’s rotor speed.

Stefanie: In the case of Mr. Robot, the PLC is used in the prison to control the locks of the cell doors.

Jiri: Yes, PLC-based systems are heavily used in prisons, there are prisons in the U.S., where PLCs control over 900 doors. Security researchers have mentioned concerns about prison PLC systems’ vulnerabilities already years ago and Sam Esmail, the producer and writer of Mr. Robot, cleverly ties these concerns into the story. Potential exploits are also presented in the open source Metasploit Framework, which is a tool for developing and executing exploit code – so basically, every script kiddie can (ab)use it.

Stefanie: Sounds scary. How could a PLC be protected from an exploit?

Jiri: System administrators should make sure that the PLC firmware and controlling software is patched and always updated. They should also use proper network segmentation to prevent access to the PLC network from other local networks – air gaps – like the one in Mr. Robot, where the PLC could be accessed via patrol car’s laptop. Also, physical media like USB flash disks and mobile phones should be restricted from accessing the PLC.

Stefanie: Sounds pretty simple in a way… Has anyone ever broken out of prison by hacking into the prison’s system?

Filip: There are many ways prisoners can use technology to “hack” themselves out of prison. Earlier this year, a criminal imprisoned in a jail near London, managed to escape the prison using social engineering. He set up a fake web domain that resembled the domain of the court responsible for him. He then used this domain in an email he sent to the prison’s custody inbox, including the message that he should be released. His escape was noticed only three days later, when solicitors were supposed to interview him.

The (cyber)criminal was caught again some time later, but this story shows that a jailbreak via “hack” isn’t that unrealistic in today’s world.

Mr. Robot airs on Wednesdays at 9/10 central on USA

via: USA Networks Mr. Robot airs on Wednesdays at 9/10 central on USA

Thank you Jiri and Filip for taking the time to discuss this week’s Mr. Robot hacks!

What did hack did you find most interesting from the episode? Let us know in the comments below :)


Mr. Robot Review: 3xpl0its.wmv

The major theme of this week’s Mr. Robot episode revolved around vulnerabilities. As much as we sometimes try to deny it, we all have weaknesses. Cybercriminals, being the intelligent people they are, unfortunately often use their smarts for evil. They know that it is human nature to have weaknesses since no one is perfect, and they exploit these weaknesses using a tactic called social engineering.

“People make the best exploits”

Whether directly or indirectly, humans and the software they create can be exploited via their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

FSociety penetrates Steel Mountain, E Corp’s data security center, by exploiting human weaknesses. We first see this happen when Elliot exploits Bill Harper, a sales associate at Steel Mountain, by dismantling his self-worth and telling him that no one in his life really cares about him. Elliot then requests to speak to someone who matters and Bill, disheartened and humiliated, calls his supervisor.

To FSociety’s surprise, Trudy comes instead of Wendy, the supervisor they were expecting and were prepared to utilize to get into the next level of Steel Mountain. This slightly throws off FSociety for a few seconds, but they make a quick comeback by doing a bit of online research. They learn that Trudy’s weakness is her husband and use a Linux distribution called Kali to send her a text message appearing to be sent from her husband saying that he is in the hospital. I researched more about this tool and found out that when using it, it is possible for anyone to spoof SMS and make messages appear as if they are from a number the recipient knows — a trick that is also employed in fraud emails.

The interesting thing about this, though, is they say they do not have Trudy’s number, just her husband’s number. Yet, they type her number into the program to send the message.

via USA Network - Mr. Robot airs on USA Network Wednesdays at 10/9 central

via USA Network – Mr. Robot airs on USA Network Wednesdays at 10/9 central

How cybercriminals use social engineering

I sat down with my colleague, Mobile Malware Analyst Nikolaos Chrysaidos, to discuss social engineering and how it can affect people just like you and me.

Stefanie: First off, what is social engineering?

Nikolaos: Social engineering is a combination of psychological techniques that cybercriminals use to trick people into giving up sensitive information or performing certain actions, such as downloading malware. Social engineering essentially exploits people’s weaknesses and as Elliot said in this episode, “People make the best exploits”. No one is perfect and not everyone always has the best judgment, which makes social engineering such a successful tactic. Social engineering is not successful because people are not intelligent enough; it is successful because cybercriminals specifically target and exploit people’s weaknesses.

Stefanie: We saw FSociety socially engineer their way into Steel Mountain, but what are some examples of social engineering that target consumers?

Nikolaos: Generally, social engineering tactics targeted at consumers either trick the victim into thinking they have won a prize, create fear by implying that something is wrong, or that the victim absolutely needs something. This can happen in the form of spearphishing attacks, in which hackers send messages pretending to be a trusted entity or friend of the victim. These messages include call-to-actions that, for example, prompt the victim to update their banking information, tell them there is an important attachment that they need to open which is really malware, or that they have won a prize and need to provide information to retrieve it. Social engineering can also use apps or advertising to trick people into doing certain things.

We often see in the mobile space that hackers scare victims into downloading fake antivirus apps by telling them that their device has a virus on it. In reality, the app steals private data from the device or holds files on the device for ransom, like Simplocker did.

Another way hackers trick users into downloading malware or into giving up personal information, is via malicious advertising. These ads often tell you, for example, that you do not have the latest version of Flash and should download it. They also tend to offer adult services, such as porn, live webcam chats or even mail-order brides. Once clicked on, these malicious ads can download malware onto your device.

Stefanie: Wow! Seems like people really need to be careful! What is some advice you can give to avoid becoming a victim of social engineering?

Nikolaos: Always double check emails from your bank to make sure they are legitimate. Banks should never email you asking to enter sensitive information via a link or send vital information as an email attachment. The same goes for emails from friends that contain links or attachments, if they seem fishy or off, call your friend and ask if the email really came from them before you take any actions.

As for mobile apps, make sure you only download apps from official app stores, like Google Play. If you do choose to download from a third-party store, make sure you have an antivirus solution installed and running. If an app asks you for permissions that don’t make sense to the app’s functions or if the app wants you to alter your security settings, then something is wrong and you should not download the app. You should be similarly cautious with advertisements offering you video players or adult content.

To maximize your protection against threats, you should have antivirus software installed on your PC and mobile device. In case you accidentally fall prey to a social engineering trick, antiviruses will catch malicious programs and websites before they can cause damage.

Never use Wikipedia as a trusted source

This was drilled into my head by my professors in college. Now, I am not saying Wikipedia is bad — there is a sea full of valuable information on Wikipedia, but the site can be edited by nearly anyone. Apparently people even try to delete entire pages –ahem, Donald Trump. You can’t always trust what you read on Wikipedia, despite the editors’ best efforts to keep the pages factual. FSociety, of course, knows how easily a Wikipedia page can be manipulated and abuses Mobley’s extensive Wikipedia editing history to edit Sam Sepiol’s Wiki page. Elliot tells Bill Harper, a sales associate at Steel Mountain, that he is Sam Sepiol, a young billionaire who co-founded tech startup Bleetz and that Bill should look him up. Bill searches for Sam Sepiol and reads his Wikipedia page, where Elliot’s picture is uploaded and thus Elliot is granted a tour of Steel Mountain.

Be aware of how much you share with the Internet

This week’s Ashley Madison data breach is, hopefully, a major wake up call for a lot of people. This breach should teach everyone that the minute you put your personal information online, it’sout of your hands and could be up for grabs. In this week’s episode, Fernando realizes this when he learns he was busted, because he put his business on social media. He did use codes to cipher his communications, but apparently the codes he used were too obvious and easily crackable. Clearly, Fernando should be looking to hire a new adviser and fire his “aspirational little brother”.

You should use caution when uploading your business onto social media. FSociety discovered the weaknesses of multiple people just by Google searching them and checking out their blogs, Twitter and Facebook profiles. This can be done by anyone, so make sure to examine your social media accounts’ settings and set everything to private. Also, be sure to think twice before you upload content or sign up for services online. Think about how these choices may affect you in the future, who can see them and if you really want the world to see it.

What did you think of this week’s Mr. Robot episode? Make sure you follow Avast on Twitter and check out our Hack Chat channel on YouTube to keep up with future Mr. Robot discussions!

Mr. Robot Review: da3m0ns.mp4

This week’s episode was a little confusing for me – and I’m not only referring to the trippy dream Elliot has while going through his drug withdrawals.

Operation Meltdown

It seems I wasn’t the only one who had questions about the hacks in this week’s episode; Forbes published an interview they did with Michael Bazzell, Mr. Robot’s technical consultant and cyber crime expert explaining the hack attack on E Corp that Elliot comes up with at the beginning of the show.

In the article, Michael Bazzell explains how Elliot plans on destroying E Corp’s data storage facility, using Raspberry Pi. Sounds like a very yummy method – too bad there’s an “e” missing at the end of “pi”! Michael explains that Raspberry Pi is a very small computer that can be accessed via the Internet through its built-in cellular chip. Using this, Elliot wants to control the facility’s climate control system to overheat it, thus melting E Corp’s tape-based back up.

While Forbes focused on the more complex hacks that targeted large corporations like E Corp and Allsafe, I was intrigued by the two physical hacks in the show.


via USA Networks

Beep Beep

The first “IRL” hack is when two members of FSociety hack a minivan – keep in mind that FSociety does everything in their power to not leave a trail, so they need a stolen car to get to E Corp’s data facility center in order to prevent being caught.

The FSociety guys casually sit on a sidewalk and wait for someone to park and lock their car. Using what looked like an old radio to me but is more likely a transmitter, they were able to send a command to unlock the car – politely thanking “mom” for giving them the opportunity to steal her car. Once inside the car, they connect the car to their laptop using a cable and ran the code to get the car started.

I asked my colleague, senior malware analyst Jaromir Horejsi, what he thought of the hack:

All they needed was the cable and specialized control software for cars. This software can access data from sensors in the car and it can control the car’s behavior. With that, they just had to connect everything together and select their desired actions. – Jaromir Horejsi

FREEZE…Your car keys?

This method of hacking a car seemed a little old school, given that there are now so many cars on the road that are keyless and start with a push of a button. Nick Bilton, technology writer and Disruptions columnist for The New York Times, recently had his car hacked and stolen and  he wrote an interesting column about his experience.

Nick describes how he was standing in his kitchen and watched as two teenagers stole his Toyota Prius. Prii and many other modern cars are keyless and require the fob key to be within a certain range to start. Nick did more research into how it was so easy for the teens to steal his car right in front of his home and found that there are various gadgets on the market that can unlock BMWs, Toyotas and many other keyless cars. These gadgets are radio transmitters that either use brute force to cycle through car key fob codes or simply amplify the distance the car searches for a key fob, as was done in Nick’s case.

The solution Nick found to this problem? Putting his key fob into his freezer, which acts as a Faraday Cage that blocks external electric fields.

Do Not Disturb

En route to E Corp’s data storage facility, Elliot vomits due to his withdrawal symptoms and the FSociety team has to make a stop for him to recuperate. They stop at a hotel and plug a small device into the room’s key card lock port. Within the blink of an eye they have entered the room and made themselves at home.

This made me ask myself: Can someone really enter a hotel room that easily? (I also thought it was rather convenient that they just happen to have this device with them, but I won’t get into that here ;)).

I did some research online and found out that it is very possible to hack one’s way into a hotel room and that this was proven back in 2012 by Cody Brocious. You can find his paper describing how he hacked the Onity HT lock system for hotels here.

However, we are now in year 2015 and times are changing! Now, many major hotel chains, like Hilton and Starwood, are using NFC and Bluetooth keys combined with mobile apps in place of key cards and physical keys.

The security of any application and system depends on its design and proper implementation. Vulnerabilities cannot be avoided. However, it depends on whether these vulnerabilities are exploitable or not. If exploitable, it depends on who discovers them first the good or the bad guys. If discovered, it also depends on how quickly they are mitigated. Customers should not be discouraged from using new technology. Conversely, the more people use new technologies, the higher the chance is that potential problems are discovered and fixed — the same goes for mobile apps that work as hotel room keys. –Jaromir Horejsi, senior malware analyst at Avast

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