Elliot, Mr. Robot's anti-hero cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, has been having a life-style crisis. In episode 3, Elliot longs to live what he calls a bug-free life, otherwise known as a regular person.
“Was he drinking Starbucks?”
However, he is quickly pulled back into F Society's hold when emails exposed during the threatened data dump revealed that E Corp executives had knowledge about the circumstances which led to his father's death. We will leave the intrigues and plot theories, especially if Mr. Robot is real or a figment of Elliot's imagination, to the internet. Right now, let's look at the hacks highlighted in this episode.
At minute 7:40, you see Elliot in the hospital after Mr. Robot had pushed him off the high wall they were sitting on in the previous episode. His psychiatrist, Krista, is in the hospital and explains that the police wanted to do a drug panel, but Elliot refused. Elliot admits he has been taking morphine. Krista says the only way she can approve his release from the hospital would be if he commits to a bi-monthly drug test. Elliot starts thinking about how he will get around this problem by hacking the hospital’s IT. The IT department is lead by one single person, William Highsmith, with a budget of just $7,000 a year. According to Elliot, he uses useless virus scans, dated servers and security software that runs on Windows 98. It’s one of the reasons why Elliot made that particular hospital his primary care facility, since he can easily modify his records to look average and innocent.
Stefanie: Wow, wouldn’t it be an unusual that a hospital would actually use old infrastructure and have little budget for their IT? I also found it a bit odd that they have just one IT guy, I mean healthcare data is REALLY sensitive and definitely one of the last things I would want to have accessed by hackers!
Walter Mego: Well, unfortunately, this situation is a very real in American hospitals. Last year, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), reported that one out of five hospitals indicates that a lack of adequate financial resources was a barrier to the implementation of new technology, and another one fifth said that a lack of staffing resources was a barrier. In the same report, 20% of hospital IT leaders indicated their organization had experienced a security breach in the past year. Now, if you think about hackers like Elliot – you can imagine that some breaches probably go unnoticed. The real number of data breaches and hacks affecting healthcare institutions are most likely higher – scary, right?
We learn more about Angela’s boyfriend Ollie and his sticky situation. Last episode Ollie received a music CD that turned out to have malware on it. The infection that resulted gave an unknown hacker access to Ollie’s laptop webcam which he used to spy on him and Angela. The hacker tells Ollie he has photos of his mistress, 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 Allsafe’s systems.
Stefanie: This part creeped me out, despite all of the crazy stuff we have seen so far on the show! First, let me ask: How easy is it for someone to hack your laptop’s webcam? I have heard tons of stories like this in the news, but I want to believe this isn’t as easy as it may be…
Walter Mego: Unfortunately, you are right to be creeped out and afraid. Webcam hacking is relatively easy and it’s not only built in laptop cameras that we have seen being hacked and streamed to other online, it’s also baby monitors with cameras and CCTV cameras. In terms of laptops, all hackers have to do is get you to install hacking software, which is often easier than people maybe think. In this episode, we see that Elliot hacked Shayla by obtaining her login credentials using a phishing scam. Phishing scams can also be used to trick people into downloading software and once a hacker has installed certain software on your laptop they can control your webcam to watch your every move and even record via your webcam. To prevent this, you should change your CCTV, baby monitor and external webcam’s passwords. If your laptop has a built in camera, you can simply cover it up with a post it, but you should really make sure you have antivirus installed on your computer and make sure it’s always up to date to catch malicious software.
Stefanie: The other part that also scared me about this situation was how the personal information the hacker collected not only affected Ollie, but Angela and her dad as well. Do you think people are aware of how much a hacker can do if they collect your personal information?
Walter Mego: Absolutely not. People often say “here, look at my phone, I have nothing to hide” or do not protect themselves while connected to open Wi-Fi, because they think their activities and data are uninteresting. I think people underestimate the value of the data on their devices. This is the perfect example of that and the hacker didn’t even steal any of Ollie’s money while hacking, he just gathered personal information. Granted Ollie was having an affair (not very cool of him), which was what Ollie was unhappy about having potentially exposed, the hacker also got a hold of Angela’s dad’s social security number, because her bank account was linked to her dad’s account – something Ollie probably wouldn’t have thought he had on his laptop. If you hack someone and collect enough valuable and personal information, I am sure you can blackmail anyone to a certain extent using that information.
At minute 35:25 we see Tyrell do some simple Instagram stalking and he finds out where Anwar, the CEO's assistant, hangs out. After an encounter with Anwar, Tyrell does something to Anwar’s phone that gives him valuable information.
Stefanie: We see on the cell phone’s display that Tyrell is rooting Anwar’s device. Why do you think he does this?
Walter Mego: We are not entirely sure of Tyrell’s motives, but it’s likely he targeted Anwar to gain access to the name of the candidate for the CTO job that he wants. Tyrell uses a backdoor in 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.