BY PAUL SZOLDRA
USA Networks "Mr. Robot" may be the first show to realistically depict hacking, but it sometimes misses the mark on some big technical points.
"It's not a documentary, and most attacks are reasonable," says Kyle Lady, a research and development engineer with Duo Security, but he points out two big problems on the show: Password cracking and wireless network hacks.
When main character Elliot Alderson decides he wants to get into someone's system, one of his go-to methods for doing so is with software built to guess passwords until it figures out the right one. "There are lots of tools that exist to crack passwords," Lady says.
But the show makes password cracking look way too quick and easy. Alderson might get the right password within a few minutes on the show, but in real life it's unlikely to happen within a day, let alone five minutes. Though Lady says it is possible — especially when people are using a weak password — the compression of time is understandable given the show's length.
In real life, it takes a lot more than a few keystrokes and a click of a mouse to break into someone's computer.
This truth becomes apparent when Alderson hacks someone's computer through wireless networks. The generic template, Lady says, is that someone has a phone, then 30 seconds later it's hacked because it was on WiFi.
"That's pretty handwavy," Lady says. He explained that even if an attacker broke into a wireless network, that doesn't mean they automatically get access to all the other devices connected to it.
“With all of these examples on the show, the process of getting on a cellular or wireless network is equated with also getting onto a device," he said. "In reality, I find a way to get on your WiFi, then from there, I need to find a way to hack into your laptop."
Still, Lady and others have praised the show for its mostly-realistic depiction of the hacking world. And he did offer one way hackers break into systems that the show usually gets right.
“The biggest item would be social engineering," Lady says, describing the process of calling or emailing a target to try and get information. "It’s really easy to get someone to do something, because people like to help."