The hack that almost wasn’t: How a pen test led to Mr. Robot’s ransomware

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Yes, it’s an homage to a famous hacker (nice touch). (credit: USA Networks / NBC Universal)

Warning: This piece contains minor spoilers for this week’s episode of Mr. Robot (S2E1)

Near the intermission of Mr. Robot’s two-part season two premiere, fsociety hacker Darlene boots her desktop computer and opens up something called the “Social-Engineering Toolkit.” She scrolls through a list of options including a “Java Applet Attack” (done through a Remote Administration Tool) then chooses to unleash the “F-Society Cryptowall.” Suddenly, tellers and high-level employees at one of the world’s most powerful banks all stare at the same screen (above).

Ars readers will recognize this as another instance of art imitating life. And as Mr. Robot’s premiere played out, the episode relied on a cryptoransomware story arc that could’ve been ripped from any number of headlines, including those high-profile Maryland hospital hacks. Similar to that real-life outcome, executives at fictitious E-Corp decide they could come up with the requested $5 million in the couch cushions and eventually pay up (or at least intend to).

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