If “Mr. Robot,” the USA Network’s critically-acclaimed, award-nominated TV thriller, has gotten you paranoid about this whole “computer thing” — well, that’s what the show’s writing team is going for.
“If it ups your level of paranoia, it’s a good thing,” said Mr. Robot writer Kor Adana, on stage at CES 2016’s CyberSecurity Forum.
That’s a big part of why the show makes it such a point to demonstrate real, actual hacking and cyberattack methods in action: Not only does that approach make Mr. Robot a lot more authentic, it’s designed to get the audience thinking about their own online habits.
Beyond the extremely nerdy database exploits and other deeply technical attacks used by the hackers on “Mr. Robot” against the evil E Corp, the show extensively showcases more straightforward shenanigans that can put average people directly at risk.
The goal is for the audience to say “Oh, I shouldn’t just accept a CD from a street peddler, or pick up a USB drive off of the street,” Adana says.
It’s also a big part of the job for James Plouffe, the show’s resident technical consultant. His task is twofold: Figure out in-character but technically accurate ways for the cast of Mr. Robot to accomplish their goals while staying abreast of cutting-edge developments to make sure the show stays relevant.
It’s worked out ok for “Mr. Robot,” which has stayed topical as its first season coincided with the major cyberattack on Ashley Madison.
Like Adana, Plouffe wants the audience to be a little paranoid. But from his perspective, it’s more about mitigating risk, since you can never totally be free of it.
“Stepping into the streets is inherently risky,” Adana says.
Instead, he says, he wants “Mr. Robot” to encourage the average person to undertake simple, but often overlooked, security measures like using a completely different password for each website and app they use.
And when it comes to connected home devices, like the many smart fridges and light bulbs on display at CES 2016, he urges you to make sure you’re getting more out of them than the risk you’re taking on.
“Evaluate if you’re getting any real value from plugging your toaster or refrigerator into the Internet,” Plouffe advises.
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