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Mr. Robot Season 2 Hacks and Exploits: The Hot Wallet and the Phreaker

Have you been impatiently looking forward to Mr. Robot’s second season? Do you always have questions about the hacks that take place during the show? Are you often pausing to have a closer look at what’s written on that PC screen? Stay tuned! We’re also hooked on Mr. Robot and we’ll be looking for answers ourselves on an episode-basis.

SPOILERS ALERT!

This week’s episode, eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd delivers another of Elliot’s intensive inner struggles. And enormous quantities of Adderall, the addictive amphetamine-based legal drug that shouldn’t be abused. In some way, Adderall is this episode’s exploit, or means of exploit. Elliot is exploiting the drug to mute Mr. Robot, so that we have Tyrell Wellick back in the picture.

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It just dawned on me that Tyrell hasn’t been around since Mr. Robot took complete control over Elliot (correct me if I am wrong). And he wants back, Elliot wants him back too, because he’s looking for answers. Which led me to thinking about the names of both characters – Tyrell and Elliot. Isn’t it weird that both names have six letters and that they merge perfectly? Fans have already theorized about Tyrell being Elliot, and there are plenty of arguements suggesting this is highly unlikely because it doesn’t fit with the rest of the story. However, I still think this name “coincidence” is bizarre.

Tyrelliotyrelliotyrelliot

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Jump to Mr. Robot Season 2 Hacks and Exploits: Preparing fsociety Cryptowall

On the tech side, a kernel panic is an action taken by an OS upon detecting an internal fatal error from which it cannot safely recover. In Elliot’s words: “My internal fatal error from which my system cannot simply recover”. Something… someone… is definitely not syncing!

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“Kernel panic – not syncing” is an error that causes boot problems and is often caused by hardware failure. When will we see Elliot rebooting flawlessly?

The story also takes us back and forth in time, giving some answers and meanwhile creating new questions. We are taken back to the birth of fsociety, and we’re even told it stands for Fun Society Amusement LLC. The episode is also gradually revealing bits of Ray’s personality. We are now sure that he’s also talking to himself!

Overall, this episode’s imagery is full of symbolism and visually has surpassed Mr. Robot’s finest moments so far! Everything is swept into a swirl of madness! To such an extent that even Elliot finds it weird.

I know, I know… That’s very weird too…

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I feel like this vision of Elliot is telling him (us) something. It’s like his own distorted reality is giving him clues. And he knows it! The scene with the three masked “girls” seems like a key moment. The girls’ dresses are colored in red and blue, and just a few seconds later we have these colors spinning around in an endless loop – washing away his clarity and his sense of self in a hypnotizing whirlpool… Maybe I’m speculating too much?

What about the hack side of eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd?

The Bitcoin Wallet Story: How Realistic Was It?

Very! This is when we begin to grasp why Ray is trying to “recruit” Elliot so desperately. Ray’s Bitcoin service needs to be fixed because, in his own words, every time he starts it up, someone steals from him and is crashing the server. He’s dealing with a hot wallet problem.

So, What Is a Hot (Bitcoin) Wallet?

It’s basically a Bitcoin wallet which is online and is connected to the Web. It’s called “hot” in opposition to wallets that are kept in cold storage (offline). Operating a “hot wallet” can be quite risky to the owner – most operating systems are prone to exploits. If an attacker or a piece of malware successfully exploits some vulnerability, they may easily break into the system and perform Bitcoin theft. That’s why storing large amounts of Bitcoins in a hot wallet is generally (and genuinely) considered a bad practice.

Some of the biggest Bitcoin thefts involved Mt Gox, the Japanese Bitcoin exchange service which has suffered great losses not once but twice. The first theft happened somewhere in 2011. The story goes that an unknown user account managed to hack into Mt. Gox and make off with about 25,000 Bitcoin. At the time, that was half a million dollars.

The second time was in 2014, when the company lost something like $430 million worth of Bitcoin. And these are just two examples out of many great Bitcoin thefts!

Let’s go back to Mr. Robot’s Ray. It’s obvious that he is part of some bogus activities. Is he stealing crypto currency himself, or is he involved in drug operations?

The Self-Inflammatory Hardware: How Realistic Was It?

When the FBI agents investigating Romero’s murder plug in his machine, it is immediately set on fire! Shortly after Dominique DiPierro warns them to check it for booby traps…

Indeed there are programs and ways for a hacker to make sure that the FBI won’t make it to going through their files. However, can those really set a computer on fire? Not really. And we’re not really let behind the scenes of this “hack”. A Quora user has suggested that lining the hard drive with thermite may actually cause a hardware to burst into flames. However, this hides too many risks for someone sane to put in motion.

The Phreaker Story: How Realistic Was It?

Do You Know What Phreaking Is?

The term phreak is a sensational spelling of the word freak with the ph- from phone. Phreak, phreaker, or phone phreak are names used for and by individuals who participate in phreaking. Basically, a phone phreaker is an individual who is into exploring (and hacking) the telephone system. The term was coined in the late 50’s, and was mostly popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

So, we’re told that Romero was one of the best phreakers in town. But how useful can a phreaker be in modern times? As pointed out by TheVerge’s Russel Brandom:

As the old copper networks are replaced by fiber optics, most of the classic phreaker tricks have stopped working. Modern phones are just computers sending data over strands of glass like every other computer, and while you can still totally hack them, it’s not really phreaking in the classical sense.


Perhaps we’ll get the bigger phreaking picture in next episode (pun intended)?

Milena Dimitrova

Milena Dimitrova

An inspired writer and content manager who has been with SensorsTechForum since the project started. A professional with 10+ years of experience in creating engaging content. Focused on user privacy and malware development, she strongly believes in a world where cybersecurity plays a central role. If common sense makes no sense, she will be there to take notes. Those notes may later turn into articles! Follow Milena @Milenyim

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