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Dissecting ‘Mr. Robot’ Ep. 7: Interrogation Techniques, Hacker Birthdays and “Going Kinetic”

Dissecting ‘Mr. Robot’ Ep. 7:  Interrogation Techniques, Hacker Birthdays and “Going Kinetic”: USA Network

USA Network

Warning: Many spoilers ahead.

Well, that didn’t take long. Last week I predicted the FBI would be busting Ray and his dark market through some clever hacking, and I wasn’t let down. While being forced to get the site back online, Elliot takes the time to leak its existence to the “real” web along with some banner ads to draw law enforcement attention and an anonymous email to the FBI for good measure. You knew it was over the moment Ray lets Elliot back on the computer to finish bringing up the site, but the surprising part is Elliot beating Ray at chess, and Ray knowing—and accepting—his fate.

What’s not surprising is badass FBI agent Shapiro has recovered from the Beijing shooting and has locked on to Angela, realized the video system was hacked and put surveillance on her. She uses a bit of social engineering on Angela: friendly, heart-to-heart cards on the table, slightly sinister, and then the words, “I was going to get you to drop by soon to answer some questions…” to trigger a range of emotions in an attempt to better read her. Not the normal Reid technique of interrogation that police and the FBI are trained in, but Agent Shapiro needs to gather more evidence before using that method. It’s more like the Kinesics method, where Shapiro is looking for behavior that might indicate deception. She keeps her cool, but the FBI will find the femtocell she planted and then the full-court press will begin.

Later, Angela is talking with the E Corp CEO Phillip Price, who reveals that today is his birthday, contrary to what she thought. “Don’t believe what you read online,” he says, “today is my actual birthday. I never share the real one with anyone. Some things I like to keep to myself.” Many hackers can totally relate to this. The number of hackers and InfoSec types who have their “birthdays” on January 1st is pretty impressive. Just watch Facebook or Twitter and you’ll see what I mean—a sort of silent protest against the ever-intrusive demands of social media.

And then there are the balls. The purpose of the drone from last episode is revealed: to drop the Wall Street Bull’s testes through the skylight of the House of Representatives as a protest against a bailout vote for E Corp taking place at that moment. A risky move. Had anyone been injured by the falling glass, fsociety would lose public support, and either way the stunt has greatly increased their threat profile in the eyes of law enforcement. Operating purely online is one thing, but going “kenetic” with testicles is something else entirely. The fsociety legend grows, but so does the attention by law enforcement and possibly intelligence agencies.

Finally, the writers throw us a curve ball on Elliot’s perception of reality and reveal he is not at Mom’s but instead in jail. For how long? Well, in episode 5 he was writing mobile phone exploit code to attack the FBI, something that would be hard to do on the inside. I’m guessing it is in reference to the two weeks since the Ray thing. So he must have been swooped up by the FBI leaving Ray’s house. That doesn’t quite make sense because how was his Seinfeld-loving friend also present in jail to ninja chop Elliot’s assailants?

Speaking of which, he must have been watching over Elliot from his introduction at the behest of White Rose/Minister Zhang, reinforcing my belief that Elliot and fsociety are being protected for some long-game future use. With this protection now revealed, Elliot might start to realize there is a larger game afoot—one where he and fsociety are just be the pawns.

Jeff Moss is the founder and creator of the Black Hat Briefings and DEF CON, two of the most influential information security conferences in the world. Find more of his commentary on Mr. Robot here.

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