Mr Robot, the US tech thriller which airs on Amazon Prime in the UK, follows a cyber-security engineer who moonlights as a hacker intent on taking down the world’s biggest and most powerful corporations. It paints a bleak picture of the power of technology and our cyber security. And it’s scarily accurate too…
“I would say almost everything that you see on Mr Robot, from a technical perspective, is realistic,” says Kor Adana, cyber-security expert, former hacker and Mr Robot’s technology adviser. “The only thing that we kind of fudge on the show from a realism standpoint is timing. There are some hacks that take many, many hours to execute or there’s a lot of prep time or a lot of research. That doesn’t mean that what I’m showing isn’t accurate, it just means we’re fudging the time for the sake of the narrative.”
When it comes to the hacks, “they need to be realistic and possible, and there needs to either be a record of it having been done somewhere or we need to be able to create it. If it’s not real, it doesn’t get into the show.”
Adana is part of the initial Mr Robot writing process – then later, he’s on set to “figure out what the screen would look like when you’re executing the hack, what our characters will be typing on the screen, what the responses would be, and what piece of software would we use… in post-production I work closely with the editors because a lot of the time they’ll be staring at code on screen. They don’t know the timing of how it’s supposed to behave and what’s supposed to appear at what time,” he explains.
Adana isn’t the only security expert involved in the process of filming Mr Robot: “We have some hackers and some FBI cybercrime agents.” They all work to ensure the tech details are as accurate as possible.
This got us thinking about about how similar our world is to Mr Robot’s, about the big corporations that have become an integral part of our lives, and about whether Google and Facebook could end up becoming Evil Corp…
“I think there’s always that risk,” admits Adana. “Where it gets into scary territory for me is, you know, it’s a free service and you’re giving up a little bit of your privacy to use it.
“How that information could be used against you is worrisome to me,” he adds. “That’s why I don’t really overshare on Facebook or social media. I don’t really post a lot of pictures, I don’t post a lot of stuff. The idea that Google is able to run bots that search through my email and then target advertising based on the content of my email, that’s a bit worrisome to me.
“But in terms of growing into a conglomerate superpower that’s in charge of various different industries like Evil Corp? I think that there is a little bit of a connection there, but I wouldn’t really make that comparison. I wouldn’t flat out say that Google is Evil Corp or Facebook is Evil Corp, you know? But I think the possibility is there, definitely.”
When it comes to the power of social media, do we then put too much trust in sites like Facebook to inform us?
“Facebook and social media overall is a source for people’s news and I don’t really think that’s up to Facebook. I don’t think that’s Facebook’s problem,” says Adana. “I use Facebook as a research tool, but I also use a multitude of other sites to get my information. So I don’t put all the responsibility on the social media surface in that regard.
“I think it’s your responsibility to inform yourself and educate yourself from as many sources as possible.”