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.
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.
This week’s episode answered A LOT of questions — we met the infamous White Rose and found out why the Dark Army backed out of the planned takedown of Steel Mountain a few episodes ago, we found out why Cisco blackmailed Ollie into infecting AllSafe with malware and we (kind of) found out who Mr. Robot and Darlene really are! Although many of my questions were answered in this episode, I also found myself asking “what?” and “why?” throughout it. What is a honeypot? What is reverse engineering and why is Tyrell talking to Mr. Robot? Why is Tyrell happy about Fsociety hacking E Corp? I turned to my colleague Ivan Jedek, malware analyst at Avast, to get some answers to my questions. Read more…
In February, Avast launched the world’s first free, easy to use, cloud-managed security offering, Avast for Business, protecting SMBs from viruses and cyberattacks. We conducted a survey amongst our Avast for Business users in the UK to gain further insight into how local SMBs handle their security.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents said that 100% of their company’s employees use the Internet. Businesses, whether small or large, retail or non-profit, often have a database of valuable customer data, making them an attractive target for cybercriminals.
Cybercrooks use social engineering to attack businesses, tricking employees via phishing scam to, for example, gain access to a company’s network. Despite the high number of data breaches, 57% of SMBs in the UK invest only 0-2% – little to nothing – of their IT budget on security.
Who handles IT support services for SMBs in the UK?
- 1 out of 10 said an employee (not a designated IT admin) handles the company’s IT support services
- Nearly 50% have an in-house technician
- 1 out of 10 have an external supplier/technician handles the company’s IT support services
- 28% of SMB business owners handle their company’s IT
More than half of SMBs in the UK allow their employees to access company data from their personal devices. Bring your own device (BYOD) is a convenient practice SMBs have embraced, as it saves costs and encourages productivity.
However, BYOD can be risky, if not handled properly. Not only can hackers target the device to gain access to sensitive corporate information, but if the device is lost or stolen, the company data stored on it goes with the device. More than half (52%) of SMBs authorize employees to access corporate data on personal devices, yet the majority (54%) doesn’t run a BYOD scheme.
Losing valuable and confidential data (31%) is the greatest security risk to UK SMBs along with productivity (23%) and losing customers (16%). We asked our business users if a virus or threat had infected them before switching to Avast for Business. When it came down to it, threats and hacks cost six out of 10 businesses productivity, followed by data loss (19%).
Types of security solutions SMBs used prior to switching to Avast for Business:
- More than half (55%) used free consumer security solutions
- 23% used premium business security solutions
- Nearly one out of ten used premium consumer security solutions
- Nearly one out of ten either do not know what kind of security solution they used before switching to Avast for Business or did not use any security solution (3%)
If your SMB has a low IT budget or if your business is currently using a consumer security solution, make sure you check out Avast for Business. Avast for Business is FREE and can be downloaded here.
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.
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…
Get your small business up and running with free software.
Getting a new business off the ground is not an easy task and can be quite costly, but there are a lot of free software and services available online that your new or small business can use as an alternative to paid-for products.
Here is a list (in alphabetical order, so no favorites ) of some you will find useful:
Avast for Business – cloud-managed security
Avast not only provides consumers with free security, but we also provide small and medium sized businesses with free cloud-managed protection. Avast for Business is easy to install and can be managed from anywhere and at anytime.
Facebook Page – alternative to building your own website
If you’re a restaurant owner or a small boutique you could also, either in addition to or instead of hosting your own website, create a Facebook page for your business. You won’t be able to sell items online, but you can add your business’ address and directions, opening hours, a description of your business and post images and status updates to inform your customers of new items on your menu or of new items available for sale in your store.
Fundera – loans for your business
Fundera is a free service that offers you loan options and lets you choose the one best suited for your small business. All you need to do is fill out a short questionnaire and then you are presented with loan products, lenders and rates and can apply to the lenders that fit you best with only one application.
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.
Windows 10 will be launching in T-minus seven days and will be offered for free within its first year of availability to Windows 7 and 8 users. Not only will the beloved Start button be back in Windows 10, but Windows 10 will also include a personal assistant, Cortana. What’s more, the new operating system will introduce many promising security features and a new browser.
Hello there, Windows Hello and Passport!
Windows Hello is biometric authentication that either scans your face, iris or fingerprint to access your Windows 10 device – very secret agent-like security! By doing so, Windows Hello eliminates the chance of hackers stealing your password to access your device, simply because you will no longer have a password to begin with!
Windows Passport also eliminates the use of passwords to access your online accounts. For now, Microsoft will work with the Azure Active Directory and has joined the FIDO alliance to subsequently support password replacement for other consumer, financial and security services. Windows will verify that you are truly the one using your device through a PIN or via Windows Hello, and then it will authenticate Windows Passport so you can log in to websites and services without ever using a password. Combined use of Windows Hello and Windows Passport would mean that a hacker would not only have to physically steal your device, but also kidnap you to access your accounts.
You will, of course, need hardware that is capable of infrared scanning your face or iris, or that has a built-in fingerprint reader to use Windows Hello. Microsoft has already confirmed that all OEM systems with Intel® RealSense™ 3D Camera (F200) will support Windows Hello’s facial unlock features.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!