This week on the premiere of Mr. Robot, the hacktivist collective fsociety made good on its threat to bring down the evil E Corp. With a few strokes of the keyboard, a USB stick and a little social engineering, the anarchists infected the corporate giant’s banking division with ransomware, locking up thousands of files and closing it for business.
As the character Darlene prepared her malicious code, real hackers watching no doubt chuckled at the familiar words on her screen: “Hack the Gibson…and remember…hugs are worth more than handshakes.” Like so much about the hacking on Mr. Robot, that detail was for them.
When these episodes air, I don’t watch the episodes, I keep my eye on Reddit and Twitter and see what people are saying about it. Writer Kor Adana
It’s a comment in the source code of the real-world toolkit known as Social Engineering Tool. SET is used all the time to build digital attacks—such as phishing emails that deliver ransomware. The line is already an inside joke, paying homage to both the movie Hackers and to social engineer Jayson E. Street, known for accosting people at hacker conferences and beyond and giving them “awkward hugs”.
Creator Sam Esmail and staff writer and technology producer Kor Adana are committed to this level of authenticity, and 99.9-percent of the time they get it right. They put as much scrutiny into what the community says about the show as the community puts into critiquing it. “When these episodes air, I don’t watch the episodes, I keep my eye on Reddit and Twitter and see what people are saying about it,” Adana says.
But it wasn’t always perfect in Season 1, and Adana remembers every little mistake. “I think we had a phone …