Events Learning to hack with Mr Robot

Learning to hack with Mr Robot

To celebrate Elliot Alderson and fsociety’s return to Amazon Prime Video, we were given a lesson we’d never forget.

Cyber thriller Mr Robot is back on Amazon Prime Video with the highly anticipated Season Three every Thursday from 12th October. To celebrate Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and fsociety’s return I headed to TechHub in London to learn all about hacking. 

In Mr Robot, programmer Elliot is recruited by the mysterious Mr Robot (Christian Slater), the leader of fsociety, an underground hacker group determined to destroy all debt records by encrypting the financial data of the world’s largest conglomerate, the nefarious E Corp. Elliot and the rest of fsociety are genius hackers but how could I, a tech-simpleton, possibly learn even the most basic coding techniques to cause internet mayhem? Enter Chris Wallace, founder and CEO of cyber security company, Intruder

In Mr Robot, fsociety meet at an abandoned arcade in Coney Island and while it’s a little impractical to find a venue with those credentials TechHub make me and three other members of the press feel suitably hacker-ready by redecorating their snazzy basement with Mr Robot pics and by having a mysterious, masked and hooded figure sat hunched over a laptop as we enter. Actually, the man behind the mask is none other than a grinning Chris who kicks things off with a quick lesson in the history of hacking including Alan Turing and his team at Bletchly Park who built the first computer to crack the Enigma code during World War II.

“Every time you open the news recently you see an example of someone being hacked, whether it’s TalkTalk or Equifax. Deloitte was the other week, it’s absolutely constant,” Chris explains. “And it’s not all teenagers in hoodies.”
We all get our laptops out and it’s immediately evident who the idiot in the pack is. It’s me. Amongst the sea of sleek MacBooks my clunky, ancient but trusty Toshiba sticks out like a sore thumb. I doubt Elliot Alderson could hack into a bag of sweets with my hardware but I’m willing to give it a go despite being about as tech savvy as your nan on Facebook. Chris uses some techie terms like Stuxnet and I nod sagely along with everyone else but all I can hear is the Magic Roundabout theme tune in my head. I pull my best Rami Malek face and try to locate the “on” switch in my brain.

The technique that Chris shows us is called an SQL injection. Basically if I was looking to nick someone’s username and password on a website I could use this technique to fool the website’s database into revealing that information to me. “What we’re teaching you today, the knowledge is not illegal, but if you go home and try it on a load of websites it might be illegal,” Chris laughs, “genuinely with great power comes great responsibility!” 

Chris has set up a fake shopping website with the purpose of allowing us to hack into it to reveal usernames and passwords of all the accounts. It’s actually kind of easy, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. Well it would be easy if I wasn’t such an imbecile. Still, everyone has had a lot of fun and I’ve at least “impressed” Chris with my security know-how (a first aid plaster over the camera on my laptop). 

Chris has the last word on Mr Robot: “The cool thing about Mr Robot is bringing all this stuff to the fore. People wouldn’t have watched a show about hackers even a few years ago. But this stuff is becoming more and more mainstream and now we all enjoy watching TV shows about guys hacking into stuff. 10 years ago when I told people I was a hacker they were like, ‘urgh’ but now it’s like, ‘cool!’ ha ha.”

Mr. Robot Season three launches on Amazon Prime Video October 12 with new episodes every Thursday.

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