Hacking the Connected Building: Real-Life ‘Mr. Robot’

July 13, 2016
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2 min read

Television shows have served as a respite to real life since TV was first invented. In my own life, analyzing episodes of “Lost” on a newborn online community kept me company during the very real demands of an actual newborn while I was on maternity leave. What is perplexing about “Mr. Robot,” however, is how it freakishly mirrors real life while also providing the escapist elements that make for good television.

Connected Building Hacks Get Real

With the season-two premiere of Mr. Robot looming, fans are waiting to see if the second season can possibly match the intricacy and engagement of the first.

I’ve found that our friendly water cooler-based debates don’t center around the feasibility of the hacks so much as the fashion choices on the show. That’s because there’s zero debate on the authentic representation of the hacks on the show, compared to a lively discussion on whether hackers in hoodies are passé.

IRL*

In real life*, the IBM X-Force research team has done its fair share of vulnerability and penetration testing. One notable example was the ethical hack of a connected building, which successfully took advantage of a building automation system to control the environment. Not only did it affect temperature control systems, but it also connected to the central server and extended control to several other geographically disperse buildings.

The hack was ultimately possible through a mix of policy settings on routers, lack of encryption on files containing passwords, duplicate passwords across systems and internal systems connected directly to the internet. It is suspected the X-Force researchers did not wear hoodies while conducting the ethical hack, but these reports are unconfirmed.

#OMG #IoT

If you search the archives for Internet of Things (IoT), you’ll find a treasure trove of warnings and advice for developers. With phrases like “too big to protect” or “double-edged sword” often used when discussing IoT, it’s no wonder there are so many articles about it.

With the new season of “Mr. Robot” taking place after the infamous Evil Corp hack, I’m curious how prominent IoT may be in the story. The series’ technical consultant Kor Adana alluded to a possible inclusion in a recent interview, leaving me to fervently hope that the dramatic tension gets ratcheted up when Evil Corp’s break-room refrigerator gets hacked and the fsociety gang adds insult to injury by revealing exactly how many flavored creamers the conglomerate consumes each month.

To learn more about an actual connected building hack, view the replay of the live session with IBM X-Force.

Pamela Cobb
Market Segment Manager, IBM X-Force and Security Intelligence

Pamela Cobb directs product marketing activities for the IBM X-Force and Threat Protection offerings developing messaging, collateral, website content. She c...
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