Tech

Mr Robot writer thinks this is the next major hack waiting to happen

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David Cornish
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Kor Adana knows how to hack your computer. He knows how to write code that could exploit all your deepest, darkest data. With a laptop and an internet connection, he could cause a lot of companies some serious security headaches.

Mercifully for us all, Adana is one of the good guys.

A former cyber security expert, he's moved his way from coding computer screens to writing for the small screen, now working as technology consultant and writer to the wildly successful TV and Amazon Prime series Mr Robot.

We asked Adana what he thought the next big 'hack of century' would be, the major misconceptions of computer security, and for his advice on making sure your computer is super secure. 

Mr Robot will be available on Amazon Prime Video from 14 July

How would you define a "hack"?

"I would say a hack is using either a system, a piece of software, a piece of technology - or manipulating a human - in order to achieve a goal that isn't directly apparent. Using systems in a way to achieve some other goal, some other purpose.

"Relating that back to the way film and TV has portrayed it, it's usually just someone dropping lingo or trying to make it interesting with flashy cheesy graphics, making it look like almost a video game - a sequence with a nerdy guy in the corner who can type really fast and spit out exposition about what he's doing, and even that exposition doesn't make sense.

"I think the real world of hacking is inherently dramatic and I think that those writers and producers and directors that came before us either didn't understand it, didn't take the time to understand it or they felt that it was boring."

Mark Zuckerberg was recently seen with tape over his laptop's webcam and mic. Is this just paranoia?

Mark Zuckerberg was recently seen with tape over his laptop's webcam and mic. Is this just paranoia?

"It's a good step to take.

"But if someone had been taking photos of me like that, that would be the least of my worries - I'd be more worried about my data stored locally on my machine. Be very aware of software updates.

"Make sure you're running anti-virius and anti-malware tools on your systems. Make sure those are up to date. All your programs, your apps your operating systems should be running the latest versions. Make sure you're using secure wi-fi networks and just practice smart password policy and you'll minimise the risk of anything happening.

"But of course, it doesn't hurt to put tape over your webcam and mic."

What do you think the next major hack will be?

What do you think the next major hack will be?

"Based on a couple of recent breaches I think are precursors to future breaches, I think the SWIFT messaging network that a lot of banks and security systems use for their payment channels - I think they're extremely vulnerable.

"It has the potential to bring down an entire bank. It's possible. 

"There's a hacking component to it; by taking over the cache transfers [packets of information sent between banks]. It's not like they're going in and running an exploit to steal money. If anything they're just taking over this messaging network and creating a fraudulent request from another bank that seems to be legitimate, so it's an alluring con."

What major misconceptions do you think people have over hacking?

What major misconceptions do you think people have over hacking?

"We're still in an age where everyone is so dependent on technology. Everyone you know is dependent in some way on their smartphone, on their computer, on their laptop. They use an array of different devices and different pieces of software.

"People recognise how these things work, so when they see them on screen they like it. However, they don't know the ways in which they're vulnerable. They don't understand how sharing on social media could open you up to an attack. They don't understand how not having a good pin on your mobile could open the doors for someone to grab your phone and grab all the private information you have stored on there. 

"Hopefully Mr Robot does a couple of things: it portrays it in a real way but it also educates, and creates a sense of paranoia that makes you think twice about what you're going to share, how you're going to set up your passwords, how you're going to update your software - basically be a smarter user."

How do you set up the perfect password?

How do you set up the perfect password?

"I would use two-step verification (if it's offered).

"I use different passwords for each of my accounts: I make sure they're strong passwords with at least eight characters and a mix of upper-case, lower-case and a mix of numbers and symbols.

"With regard to security questions - and this may sound weird - I lie in my security answers. 

"I just know from being on both ends of a hack before that security questions have been used to compromise accounts all too often. You have to remember what your lie is.

"If something asks my what my mother's maiden name is I'll just put this go-to lie in there that only I know and only I'll remember. Even if someone else does know what my mother's maiden name is, they're not going to be able to compromise my account."

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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