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Part 2: What ‘Mr. Robot’ Can Teach Us About Incident Response

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We continue with the second part of our two-part series. If you missed the first part, we are discussing what security professionals can learn from the hit series, "Mr. Robot." The series explores the world of organized hacking as well as the security measures being used to stop the hackers.

Vulnerabilities Abound in the Internet of Things

During the two seasons that the show has aired, viewers have seen examples of how hackers can exploit connected devices. One of the most extreme examples was when hackers took over the attorney's smart home, generating a nightmare of constantly changing sounds and lights and leading the attorney to run from her own home. Another example touching on IoT security was Dominique's use of a digital assistant to discuss topics of an intimate nature. Should a hacker manage to gain access to the records, the possibilities for blackmail or additional attacks seem likely.

Mobile Devices Require Protection

In the series, several people with Android phones were victimized and, interestingly enough, real vulnerabilities in the Android such as Stagefright were allegedly exploited by the hackers. They also used a malicious femtocell to intercept FBI communications and gather information without the agents even noticing. In this age of BYOD, how can you be sure that users install the latest patches and updates? Are mobile users introducing malware into the network? What is your plan to ensure a safe, effective mobile policy is implemented and maintained?

CDs and Flash Drives Are Potential Sources of Attacks

Despite warnings that they should never insert a stick or disc with an unknown source, employees seem to forget all about the risks on a much-too-frequent basis. On the series, a malware-infected CD was given to an employee by a hacker who claimed that he was an aspiring performer and that it was a demo. The employee loaded the CD, allowing the hacker to assume control of his computer for nefarious purposes. In another episode, the disc contained a data file that was used as incriminating evidence against the corporation's CTO.

Hackers Are Seldom Lone Wolves

As depicted on the show, large-scale hacking is done by organized groups, state-sponsored departments or crime syndicates, which is a much more realistic portrayal of how hacking is handled in today's world. The image of the loner huddled in his mother's basement and hacking into government agencies, major corporations and international banks does not compute. It has been a popular image for Hollywood to depict, but today, you are up against well-funded, well-trained, skilled, talented, organized teams of hackers. They may spend weeks or even months to research, analyze, execute and cover up a hack. Counteract their patience through proactive hunting on your own network.

With a DDoS Attack, Response Time Is Critical

In the show's first episode, the DDoS attack has been praised as one of the best portrayals of a hack. When the hacktivists launched a DDoS attack against E Corp, the fictional corporation's critical applications were effectively crippled. Even with a private jet to transport Elliot and the team directly to the data center, it took several hours to end the attack. This may sound like a relatively short period, but the results of a 2015 survey revealed that critical application failure costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every hour, so immediate response is important. If your organization has a well-prepared response plan and a well-trained response team, the recovery time depicted in the show is actually realistic.

Encryption Works Wonders

Too many users still believe that encryption is too complex and is not really necessary. However, encryption is a good practice that can protect data even if the situation is quite complex. In an episode of "Mr. Robot," the hackers "liberate" an attorney's devices, which they then examine to gather information that they can use to blackmail her into silence. If the attorney had encrypted her files, the hackers' plan would have failed.

This article was originally published on CloudExpoJournal.