“Mr. Robot” season two is just around the corner, and I have to admit, this fanboy is getting antsy. The show is not only a great psychological thriller, with well-developed characters and an intriguing plot, but it’s one of the first shows to really portray information security (infosec) and hacking accurately. Apparently, I’m not the only person to think this since the show has already won multiple Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards for its first season.
Last season, I tested the show’s hacking accuracy (hackuracy) in a series of ‘Mr. Robot Rewind’ articles. These articles reviewed the hacking and infosec related scenes in each episode to separate the facts from myth, and, for the most part, facts prevailed. With real-world data breaches, hacktivism and cybercrime making headlines every day, I can’t wait to dive in and see what kind of twisted response season two has to offer.
Last season’s cliffhanger finale left too many loose ends to talk about. Where is Tyrell? What happened during the three days Elliot blacked out? Does Joanna somehow know Elliot? I’m just as curious as you to learn the answers to those questions, but this article will focus on the hacking or security-related questions left by last season’s finale.
Here are four technology-based plot predictions for “Mr. Robot” season two.
Prediction #1 – Evil Corp’s data makes a return
The main hacking storyline last season revolved around Fsociety resetting worldwide debt for the “proletariat” by completely wiping out E-Corp’s (Evil Corp) records. To do so, they backdoored the company’s servers, infiltrated the company’s offsite backup provider (Steel Mountain) and even gained the assistance of a hacking group called The Dark Army to take care of the corporation’s offshore backup in China. With all these pieces in place, Fsociety released Darlene’s worm on the Evil Corp network, rendering the company’s data inaccessible. Season one ends with the world in chaos as markets struggle to recover from this economic catastrophe.
If you’ve read my previous episode Rewinds, you know that the show portrayed this digital heist with technical accuracy. The individual hacks were plausible and well thought out. However, one thing left me perplexed. In a narrative voiceover, Elliot describes how Darlene’s worm encrypts Evil Corp’s data with AES 256-bit encryption—a very strong encryption standard that would be near impossible to crack. Why would Fsociety encrypt the data rather than just delete and destroy it?
Some readers argued that perhaps encrypting takes less time than “securely” deleting data. I disagree. Encryption is resource-intensive, and you still need to wipe the original unencrypted data afterwards. I believe this data will come back in season two. Remember, Fsociety trusted that the Dark Army held up their end of the deal, and if you watched the finale’s post-credit scene, you know Whiterose has some sort of relationship with E-Corp’s CEO. In short, I’m not sure how, but I believe that E-Corp’s encrypted data is not gone for good and will play some part in the show’s future.
Prediction #2 – Angela becomes an insider threat
As the show progressed, Angela (Elliot’s childhood friend) evolved into one of the show’s most interesting characters. Though she was initially portrayed as a naive, milquetoast middle manager, she progressed into a formidable woman who played hardball and won with some intimidating, morally bankrupt C-levels. In a show with so many outright evil and ethically questionable characters, Angela seemed the only moral compass of the show. That is, until she joined E-Corp.
To me, Angela joining E-Corp was one of the biggest surprises of the finale. However, the optimist in me thinks this is all part of Angela’s heroic plan. I think Angela wants to be an insider threat.
In infosec, an insider threat is a malicious employee or insider who uses their privileged access within a company to steal data or act against the organization’s interests. While the statistics change every year, insiders are often responsible for almost as many data breaches as external hackers. Obviously, insider threats are typically a negative thing. However, considering Evil Corp is, well, evil, perhaps this is a good thing. In any case, it’s reasonable to assume that Angela has well-intentioned, ulterior motives for joining Evil Corp and if she really is an insider threat, the show will accurately portray yet another genuine infosec issue.
Prediction #3 – The cyber police come a-knocking
In the finale’s last regular scene, the show left us with a cliffhanger question; who was knocking on Elliot’s door? Some theories propose the obvious choices of Tyrell or Darlene, and others suggest the more unusual answer of Joanna or even Shayla back from the dead. I’m going to go out on a limb and make an infosec-related guess: the cyber police have come to question Elliot.
In the last episode, Lenny (Elliot’s psychiatrist’s ex-boyfriend) mentioned that he had been talking to the police about Elliot, but the police didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him. If you’ve followed the “Mr. Robot” Rewind series thus far, you’ll remember my prediction that Flipper, the micro-chipped dog Elliot stole from Lenny, would come back to haunt him. I’d be willing to bet that Flippers’ chip has given the police the evidence they need to come question Elliot.
Prediction #4 – Nation-state hackers get involved
One of the most mysterious scenes from the show’s finale came after the credits. Whiterose, a character that had previously dressed as a woman, drove up to a fancy mansion to join some exclusive event. More strangely yet, he was dressed (disguised?) as a businessman and met with E-Corp’s CEO, Philip Prince. During this scene, they talked about Rome burning, all the while, the background music matched the same tune that played while the Titanic sunk. During this scene, Whiterose continues to check his watch until an alarm goes off. So let’s connect these dots.
First, Whiterose is part of the Dark Army, which we’ve been led to believe is a Chinese hacktivist group. Second, so far the show has been very good at following real trends in the infosec industry. What common theme do we see in infosec news that involves China? Nation-state hacking.
I don’t have all the evidence to support this hunch, but somehow I believe that nation-state actors are involved behind the scenes of this E-Corp hack. My last prediction (a guess really) is that Chinese nation-state actors are involved, which is how Whiterose knows E-Corp’s CEO.
Season two can’t come fast enough
Whether my off-the-wall predictions come through or not, I can’t wait for season two of “Mr. Robot,” premiering July 13 on USA Network. Even if I’m wrong, I’m confident that one thing will remain true: “Mr. Robot” will continue to accurately represent hacking, and in turn, provide viewers with some valuable points to consider when it comes to information security.