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 [Spoiler Alert] Yarr, me matey. There be spoilers ahead! Consider yourself warned. Seriously though, this commodity describes the latest Mr. Robot adventure (Eps3.1_undo.gz) in abysmal abstruse detail. If you haven’t apparent it yet, you ability appetite to revisit this commodity later.

Wow! Addition adventure abounding of hacks and artifice surprises. If “Mr. Robot” keeps up this clip for a abounding season, I may lose all my hair. So abundant happened with the storyline in this adventure that it’s adamantine to focus on hacks alone… yet that’s what the Mr. Robot Rewind alternation is actuality for.

If you’ve anytime begin yourself wondering, is this drudge too acceptable to be true? Or, could this appear in absolute life? Able-bodied then, you’ve appear to the appropriate place. In this commodity series, I assay the hackuracy of every “Mr. Robot” episode.

This week’s adventure was abounding of attenuate hacks that happened so quick some ability acquire absent them. So, let’s jump appropriate in, and anatomize the details.

This week’s adventure starts off with a advisedly alliterative montage of Elliot’s circadian action at his new E Corp job. The arrangement is a masterfully-crafted, admitting contemptuous booty on accumulated action in America, with accepted blueprint tasks, addled cubicles, and base (and inept) average management.

During this time, Elliot’s ambition is to ensure the Stage 2 advance will never succeed. Admitting he’s removed the UPS backdoor and Dark Army’s alien admission into E Corp’s network, he still wants to accomplish abiding they can’t backpack out their affairs if they acquisition their way aback in.

He starts by boring aggravating to argue his managers of the business amount of not accumulation all their annal in one place. Besides presenting a distinct point of failure, aircraft all the annal to one abode would amount added than aloof scanning them locally. While he’s crafting his presentation, and action through accumulated bureaucracy, we additionally apprentice that he’s afraid E band aircraft system, to ensure that none of the cardboard annal end up at the New York office, admitting the arrangement annal assuming them accession (we don’t see this hack, so annihilation to analyze).

However, his administration presentations don’t go as able-bodied as his aircraft hacks, so that’s aback he reverts to hacking them to bare their secrets.

LATEST IN A SERIES: Corey Nachreiner, CTO at Seattle-based WatchGuard Technologies, is reviewing episodes of Mr. Robot on GeekWire. The appearance affectedness on USA Arrangement on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Accompany the chat on Twitter appliance #MrRobotRewind, and follow Corey @SecAdept.

During the quick montage, you see two hacks — one abstruse and one simple. However, with alone abnormal of awning time, these attenuate hacks were attainable to miss. In both cases, Elliot abstracts out his boss’ accumulated passwords so that he can admission their emails and added records.

He aboriginal hacks absolute manager, William Braddock’s, password. Braddock abnormally reminds me of Dilbert’s “pointy haired boss.” In any case, Elliot doesn’t explain this drudge at all, but by benumb framing his awning you can amount it on. Elliot is appliance a bore from a apparatus we’ve apparent him use before, the Social Engineers Toolkit (SET). This apparatus has abounding modules, but one is alleged Credential Harvester. Afterwards action into all the details, this apparatus helps attackers actualize phishing sites. The apparatus will automatically archetype a website, and host a affected adaptation of it. If you get a victim to appointment the affected site, and admission their credentials, you abduction them in the clear. There’s a acceptable beat on how this works here.

Based on the screenshots in the show, it appears Elliot targeted this apparatus to E Corp’s Outlook Web Admission (OWA) email server. I would assume he beatific some email to Braddock that affiliated to the affected E Corp server, which Braddock fell for. One attempt shows Elliot alive the “tail” command on the credential agriculturalist log file, which reveals Braddock’s username and countersign captured from the affected OWA site.

This drudge is absolutely realistic. And, appliance the baseborn credential, Elliot gets into Braddock’s email, and learns his administrator is advisedly installing rootkits on E Corp’s acute devices, such as their Ephones, TVs and alike microwaves (which I acquire is an central antic based on Kellyanne Conway’s asinine bake spying comments). Braddock is afresh affairs the clandestine chump advice he steals from these devices. Elliot leaks this advice to the FBI to get his bang-up arrested.

Braddock gets replaced with Peter McCleery, who’s aloof as akin to Elliot’s cardboard almanac presentation. Elliot’s abutting countersign drudge is abundant added simplistic. He alone “shoulder surfs” his boss’s password, which aloof agency he absolutely watches McCleery blazon it.

While acquire surfing is absolutely a archetypal hacker tactic, I do acquisition this “hack” hardly beneath astute for today’s standards. First, Elliot charge acquire appealing abuse acceptable apparition to apprehend a buzz from that far beyond the room. Added importantly, however, how abounding passwords acquire you entered afresh area you absolutely saw the belletrist you typed? Not many, right? Best programs will adapt belletrist with asterisks or article similar. I acquisition it appealing absurd Elliot would appear to see his bang-up use the one app that doesn’t abstruse passwords today.

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This arena seemed a bit like Hollywood accessibility to me. Nonetheless, it’s not absolutely implausible. I’ll accord it a brand of, “unlikely and lucky, but not unrealistic.”

In any case, already Elliot has Peter’s password, he afresh checks his claimed email and learns that Peter is modifying car firmware to adumbrate bad emissions (a nod to the real-life adventure area VW did aloof that). Elliot turns the guy over to the FBI too, and the aeon continues. Those were the alone two quick hacks we see during this period, but allegedly Elliot cleans house, airing a ton of base managers and E Corp.

Besides redistributing the cardboard records, Elliot wants to accumulate Dark Army from hijacking E Corp’s UPS advancement ability with awful firmware that ability account an explosion. In a quick scene, Elliot describes how he modifies and updates the firmware to alone acquire updates with a authentic E Corp agenda signature.

The abstraction of absorption firmware with agenda signatures is real, and is article acute accouterments manufacturers do to assure their products. This prevents hackers from calmly replacing a device’s firmware with a trojaned version, by aboriginal authoritative abiding the new firmware has a legitimate, cryptographically verified, agenda fingerprint. For example, an iPhone uses agenda signatures to anticipate you from calmly loading some adulterine OS.

This agency Elliot’s abstraction is absolutely accurate, however, I’m not abiding if what the appearance portrayed would be attainable or alike possible. In the absolute world, the mechanisms acclimated to assay for able agenda signatures are usually congenital in by the accouterments manufacturer. In fact, these mechanisms crave that the accessories address with sets of clandestine and attainable agenda keys, which are acclimated to verify the firmware is alive appropriately from the accouterments vendor. In the show, it’s adumbrated that this UPS system’s aboriginal firmware did not assay for agenda signatures. In fact, the accouterments may not acquire any vendor-delivered adequacy to do so. Furthermore, the adventure cautiously implies that Elliot “hacked” this adequacy into the UPS arrangement himself. If you attending carefully at shots of Elliot alive on the UPS system, you see one area he uses a apparatus alleged IDA Pro, and has opened the firmware file.

IDA Pro is a disassembler apparatus that developers, aegis advisers and hackers use to about-face architect aggregate code. You can additionally use it to adapt aggregate code. To me, this awning absolutely infers that Elliot manually adapted the UPS firmware to use a agenda signature assay apparatus that wasn’t present in the aboriginal vendor’s features. That seems like a absolute alpine adjustment to me.

There is a lot of antecedent for hackers patching bell-ringer software. In the past, advisers acquire begin analytical vulnerabilities in Microsoft software, acquainted the alignment was demography too continued to fix them and appear “third party” patches for those articles (likely created appliance accoutrement like IDA Pro). It’s absolute attainable for acute reversers to drudge added functionality or fixes into added people’s products, alike if they don’t acquire the antecedent code. However, creating a agenda signature validation apparatus would be a ton of work, and in best cases would absorb added than aloof the firmware itself, but some of the accouterments design.

Long adventure short, if the UPS firmware already had the adequacy to assay firmware for agenda signatures congenital in (which seems unlikely), Elliot’s config change to use that adequacy to assure these accessories is absolutely plausible. However, it does assume a little beneath astute if the appearance was implying that Elliot adapted a abounding signature validation apparatus into the firmware appliance IDA. 

One of the added hasty scenes this adventure was aback Darlene betrays Elliot, and backdoors his computer for the FBI. Aback Elliot asks Darlene to breach over, we see her accomplishing article at the aback of Elliot’s computer adviser while he sleeps. Mr. Robot (Elliot’s alter) catches her, and about interrogates her about what she did. Best of you apparently accomplished that she acceptable added some array of backdoor to the machine, which we apprentice is the case aback she allotment to Dom. But what absolutely did she do on a abstruse level, and would it assignment in absolute life?

This is one of the subtler hacks the appearance has attempted, giving alone about vague, and hidden hints about what absolutely happened. Let me breach it bottomward in the abutting few sections.

Mr. Robot bent Darlene red-handed, and absolutely suspects that she did article to Elliot’s computer. This doesn’t necessarily beggarly Elliot knows what his adapt does though. In any case, afterwards in the episode, you see Elliot alpha to use his computer, but hesitate. He suspects article is wrong. Based on his display, Elliot’s primary operating arrangement (OS) is a Linux distro alleged LinuxMint—a appealing accepted and apple-pie desktop operating arrangement (the show-runners alike took the time to use a period-accurate adaptation of the distro for the show’s timeline, 2015).

After pausing for a moment, Elliot does a agglomeration of things in quick succession. Specifically, Elliot powered bottomward his machine, he acquainted in a USB key, and afresh he powered aback up. This time his apparatus booted into Kali Linux, which is a acclaimed and absolute hacker distro that Elliot has acclimated before. Why did Elliot ability bottomward his accustomed OS and reboot into addition one? To chase for rootkits.

A rootkit is a blazon of apparatus or malware that helps awful programs adumbrate on your computer, so alike the OS is tricked into missing article that’s absolutely there. I like to anticipate of them as the software agnate of a “Jedi apperception trick.” In short, rootkits can acquiesce awful software to adumbrate files, processes, and alike alive arrangement admission from the OS itself, which agency that aegis software appliance OS functions to acquisition being will absolutely absence it.

This is why Elliot is booting into an alternating OS. If you doubtable your accustomed OS has been adulterated with a rootkit, you absolutely can’t assurance that OS, or any aegis scans run from that OS. How will you apperceive for abiding a rootkit isn’t affecting the browse results? To action this, aegis professionals apperceive to cossack their computer and run aegis scans with an alternating OS that isn’t adulterated by the rootkit.

After rebooting his computer in Kali, we see Elliot run these commands:

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To summarize, Elliot has booted a “live” adaptation of Kali, or a “temporary” OS alive off a USB stick. Afterwards booting this alive Kali stick, Elliot mounts the book systems accessory with his accustomed LinuxMint OS. This allows him to admission and browse those book systems alike admitting he didn’t cossack from that adamantine drive. Afresh he runs a apparatus alleged rkhunter. This is a real-life attainable antecedent apparatus alleged Rootkit Hunter, which scans Linux systems for rookits.

In short, this absolute action a astute assuming of one way a aegis able or argumentative analyst ability try to acquisition a rootkit on a arrangement they doubtable is infected.

However, afterwards accomplishing all this, rkhunter doesn’t acquisition anything. Elliot’s LinuxMint OS doesn’t assume to be infected. Acquire it or not, this is a attenuate adumbration suggesting what Darlene did, but we can’t affix all the dots aloof yet.

Immediately, afterwards seeing Elliot’s rootkit apparatus fail, we see Elliot’s screen, but this time from a altered angle and a altered computer. Turns out, Dom, Darlene, and the FBI are watching aggregate Elliot does on his computer. This confirms that Darlene did bulb some array of spying apparatus on his computer, but aback Elliot didn’t acquisition an infection or rootkit, what absolutely happened?

Here’s what we know. Darlene was messing abaft Elliot’s monitor, and whatever she did does not assume to acquire larboard any aisle on the absolute computer’s OS. This suggests either a accouterments or a firmware hack.

Let’s alpha with accouterments hacks. There are a cardinal of chic accessories hackers can leave on your computer to spy on you. For instance, there are baby Ethernet curtains that a hacker can leave amid your computer’s arrangement anchorage and Ethernet cable that will almanac and address your arrangement activity. There are agnate accessories you can put amid a keyboard cable and the computer to almanac keystrokes. There are alike specialized USB accessories that automatically barrage altered attacks to annex a computer. In short, there are abounding accouterments accessories that ability accord attackers some akin of alien admission to your computer’s action or data, afterwards abrogation a concrete trace in your OS or book system.

However, I am not acquainted of any accessory that can bung into a monitor’s output, and address that achievement wirelessly aback to the attacker. But theoretically, such a accessory is possible. You can wirelesses address HD footage captured from an HDMI port, but accessories that do so are rather large. So, I initially wasn’t abiding what blazon of accessory that Darlene could acquire acquainted into a adviser that would acquire accustomed Dom alien admission to what Elliot’s beheld on his screen.

That said, there acquire been antecedent attacks that could wirelessly abduction affectation output. For instance, a archetypal archetype is a government activity alleged TEMPEST. By ecology the electromagnetic emissions from a CRT monitor, alien analysts could charm low quality, but bright copies of the display. However, this advance alone formed in abutting proximity, and it doesn’t assignment with newer OLED technology. Added recently, the Snowden leaks appear that governments acquire adapted accoutrement to accidentally adviser displays, like RageMaster. Theoretically, the FBI ability acquire some accoutrement the accepted attainable doesn’t apperceive about to do this array of spying, but I acquainted Mr. Robot’s aegis consultants would use article added about accessible.

That brings us to firmware hacks. As you apperceive from the aboriginal Stage 2 plans, hackers can adapt and backdoor the firmware alive on altered accouterments accessories (like the UPS hack). Awful cipher alive on the firmware of some accouterments accessory isn’t alive in your OS, so accustomed aegis software can’t ascertain it. Thus, infecting firmware is a abundant way for attacks to balk accustomed OS aegis controls. It’s attainable that Darlene somehow afraid the monitor’s firmware, but she’d still charge to add some accessory with a wireless connection, in adjustment to “send” the affectation aback to the FBI’s computers. It turns out that’s absolutely what Darlene did, but the way I accepted this may abruptness you. Added on that soon.

There are some clues on Dom’s awning that advice bare how this adviser drudge worked.

This screenshot reveals a lot. First, Dom is seeing alone screenshots of Elliot’s desktop every few seconds, not a alive video feed. You can acquaint this aboriginal by the actuality that her appearance of his awning is absolute a PNG image, but additionally because you can see a binder of PNG images that assume to acquire been adored every few seconds.

More importantly, you can see the Command & Ascendancy (C2) calligraphy she is appliance to accept these images from Elliot’s computer. The terminal window shows a python calligraphy alleged cnc_receiver.py, which is acutely a C2 approach alert for arrangement affiliated and afresh accepting the PNG images. Finally, the aftermost adumbration in this screenshot wasn’t accessible until I baldheaded article later. The binder all the images are stored in is alleged “monitor darkly.”

So, it’s bright Dom and Darlene acquire auspiciously backdoored Elliot’s monitor, and whatever they did has some array of wireless Internet admission (likely cellular), sending PNG images of his affectation achievement aback to the FBI computer.

In the final scene, Dom allotment to the accommodation area they are staking out Elliot. Her FBI accomplice informs her that Elliot beatific an encrypted email with a articulation to addition aback she was away. He is acquisitive they got lucky, and this email is some secret, incriminating bulletin to Tyrell. As Dom looks over the screenshots of the email, she gets afraid and asks her accomplice if he followed the link. He did, and alike downloaded and opened the book it acicular to. That’s aback we see Elliot award this accommodation (or at atomic the one downstairs).

As you ability acquire guessed, this arena suggests that Elliot somehow accomplished he was monitored, and “phished” the bodies watching him. The articulation in the affected email Elliot staged could acquire acicular to awful code, which could acquire helped him get the IP and area of the FBI computer that clicked on it in any cardinal of ways. Looks like Elliot “hacked back” his hackers.

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However, the authentic adorableness to this little arrangement is the appearance runners additionally hid an Easter egg in this email that helps absolutely acknowledge how Darlene afraid Elliot’s monitor. But, you’d acquire to participate in Mr. Robot’s hidden puzzles and amateur to bolt this clue.

Notice the articulation in the email: sandbox.vflsruxm.net/plans.rar 

Like abounding URLs and IP addresses you see on this show, that articulation absolutely works. If you appointment it, you will acquisition what looks to be a aeroembolism RAR file, but absolutely isn’t. If you attending at it in a browser, this is what you get:

If you assignment in aegis or development, you may be acclimated to acquainted encoded data, and can acquaint that this is Base64 encoded data. If you run this book through a base64 decoder (like this: coil -s https://sandbox.vflsruxm.net/plans.rar | base64 -D > plans.rar), you’ll end up with a alive RAR file. If you decompress that, you get a PNG angel of a QR code.

If you chase that QR code, you get to this GitHub activity for a absolute adviser firmware drudge that the authors alleged Adviser Darkly (shoutout to acute /r/MrRobot Redditors for award this quickly).

This is the final adumbration that shows how Darlene hijacked Elliot’s adviser firmware, but not the absolute computer. In short, Adviser Darkly is a firmware drudge of the OSD congenital into a specific Dell monitor. Appliance a USB anchorage on the adviser (or HDMI too), an antagonist can annex the monitor’s firmware, and afresh absolutely ascendancy account and autograph every pixel on the monitor, absolute of what the absolute computer sends to the monitor. This beggarly an antagonist can force pictures assimilate your adviser behindhand of what the computer is cogent it to display. That could acquiesce them to ambush you in a cardinal of ways. Added importantly, it allows attackers to apprehend every pixel on the monitor, which is acceptable what this drudge does to actualize screenshots for Dom. If you appetite to apprentice added about this hack, assay out the DEF CON allocution on Adviser Darkly.

The alone missing allotment of this equations is how the adviser sends that advice aback to Dom. Best monitors don’t acquire arrangement or wireless capabilities, so how does this hijacked adviser affix to Dom’s computer? Well, annihilation in this adventure answers that question, but luckily an account with one of the producers, Kor Adana, accord us the aftermost hint. In an interview, Adana mentioned the USB Armory. This is a abounding computer on a tiny USB stick. This USB stick would serve two purposes. First, it could be the USB commitment apparatus for the firmware accomplishment acclimated to annex the monitor. Second, with the appropriate accessories (a cellular USB dongle), this tiny computer could additionally wirelessly affix to the Internet, sending the awning images aback to Dom.

As you can tell, this is a appealing astute hack. It absolutely uses a absolute adviser firmware exploits that advisers appear a year ago. I will say that the absolute GitHub cipher for this accomplishment doesn’t accommodate any command and ascendancy cipher that accelerate screens aback over the network. That is not article the aboriginal advisers did. However, the drudge would acquiesce you to actualize screenshots, and accumulated with a baby USB computer and cellular dongle, this is a absolutely believable appliance for Adviser Darkly’s capabilities. As usual, Mr. Robot gets a 1 for realism.

If you watch Mr. Robot idly, you’re alone abrading the apparent of all its hidden secrets. Actuality are some absorbing credibility appear in this episode:

With so abounding absorbing hacks, there is a lot you can apprentice from this episode, but I appetite to absolutely apply on the affair of countersign aegis as a applied takeaway.

Authentication and passwords are the cornerstone of security. You can acquire all the adorned aegis controls you want, but if an antagonist gets one of your trusted user’s credentials, all your aegis is out the aperture aback that hacker will be accustomed accepted access. In this episode, you saw how attainable it was for Elliot to abduct passwords.

The acknowledgment to stolen, lost, or reused passwords is multifactor authentication—using at atomic two factors for authentication; a countersign and article else, such a fingerprint, certificate, a one-time-password, or alike a adaptable advance approval. Aback you use multifactor authentication, alike if an antagonist learns your password, they’ll be challenged to amount out your additional token.

While we’re talking passwords and authentication, aback you use passwords, they should be strong. In this episode, you see both Dom and Elliot log into computers assorted times with diffuse passwords. Chase their archetype by consistently appliance continued and circuitous passwords for bigger security.

Thanks for abutting me for addition active Mr. Robot hackuracy analysis. If the aboriginal two episodes of the all-embracing clip for division three, we’re in for a agrarian ride. As always, I attending advanced to your comments, theories and acknowledgment below, and don’t balloon to accompany us afresh for Mr. Robot Rewind abutting week.


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