Security

Hackers in Hollywood: How Mr. Robot got it right

Not everything on TV accurately reflects real life, but Mr. Robot comes close. The show's cybersecurity advisor explains how the writers blend fact with fiction to create educational entertainment.

What you see on television does not usually depict what you see in real life. Shows that involve hackers rarely reflect reality. However, TV show Mr. Robot comes close to accurately representing how developers and hackers really talk and act.

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson met with Mr. Robot's cybersecurity advisor James Plouffe to get behind the scene details about how the show, set in 2015, accurately represents reality.

The show's producer and tech producer were very interested in portraying an accurate representation of what hackers are like in real life, so they brought in IT consultants and advisors, Plouffe said.

SEE: How to build a successful career in cybersecurity (TechRepublic)

The writers of the show include scenes with characters that experience the same type of vulnerabilities people see in real life, such as Stagefright which targeted Android phones, and was a top security concern in 2015. The characters also use true-to-life techniques and hardware.

One of the challenges that comes with writing a show like this is translating complex ideas into entertainment. Plouffe explained how writers tend to have an idea of what they want to happen in an episode, then the tech consultants create pitches that include types of tactics that might be employed to make those situations happen. Then, he said, theygo back and forth about how those tactics fit into the episode, and what needs to happen for those to take place.

Mr. Robot uses authentic examples of cyberattacks and hacking, so that viewers can understand the reality of attacks, though they might not understand the tech behind it. "As we live in a more, and more connected world, we do need to be a little bit more cautious about how we approach that," he said. "I certainly hope that the show's attention to detail provides folks with a basis to think about how things really work. I think the liability with certain depictions of hacking in Hollywood is that they're wildly inaccurate...or hacking is just portrayed very obliquely."

Also see

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Image: USA Network

About Leah Brown

Leah Brown is the Associate Social Media Editor for TechRepublic. She manages and develops social strategies for TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.

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