Television and Hollywood movies often take liberties when it comes to portraying things in the real-life, and creatively twist plots, actions and characters to make for a better story.
While that is acceptable for some plots, it doesn’t work well with others. CSI’s latest spin-off, CSI: Cyber, proved just how much creative licence a series can get away with when trying to show how the hacking underworld works.
While CSI: Cyber was a bit of a hit and a miss, the Steve Golin-produced Mr. Robot seems to get everything right.
According to Kaspersky Lab’s leading security researcher Sergey Golovanov, the show hits all the right keystrokes.
In a blog post, Golovanov admitted that he wasn’t that interest in the show, but “one night I stumbled upon it by accident and decided to have a look. I wasn’t expecting much, but what I saw just blew my mind!”
He added that it has all the right ingredients to portray the inner workings of the hacking world.
“You’ve got schizophrenia, autistic hackers dealing with the outside world, and the main character is battling against society and ‘the men in black suits’. And there’s none of the usual Hollywood nonsense like projecting equations on people’s faces, it’s all like in real life.”
So according to Golovanov the setting works, but how much of the coding is done to specification?
Well, if you don’t know that much about hacking and scripts, you will be glad (or maybe a little paranoid) to know that this one hits the bull’s eye.
“A guy types in actual commands on the terminal’s black screen. Even in the first episode, when they were dealing with a DDoS attack, the show got it just right.”
In the first episode of the series, the protagonists are faced with having to stop a DDoS attack on a server and Golovanov says the show gets many of the details right.
“That’s exactly how it works: they discover a rootkit on the server; it must be tracked down and killed. And there is a very realistic scene where the character doesn’t kill the rootkit, but creates a chmod instead and says: ‘I’m the only one who’s going to be able to read it.’ Then the criminals left a readme.txt file for him alongside the Trojan. This also happens in real life, albeit rarely, when criminals leave a message in the body of a Trojan, along the lines of: ‘you can go and stick it.’ I even remember a Trojan that quoted Shakespeare.”
As for hacking, “everything there is depicted absolutely realistically. The main character successfully uses social engineering, hacking the emails and social network profiles of a psychoanalyst, his classmate and her boyfriend. The boyfriend even had 123456Seven for password: when Elliot discovers this he decides he’s dealing with an utter moron. Sometimes the show is a textbook case of what not to do.”
The subject matter and the success of the show can perhaps be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that hacking and data breaches are happening everyday. The show was renewed for a second season even before the first episode aired on terrestrial TV.