Mr. Robot’s ‘FSociety’ Inspired By Real-Life ’Morpho’?

For all those cybercrime bloggers who’ve been cyberventilating over USA network’s hit TV series, Mr Robot, while a lot more will be revealed about its band of hackers called ‘FSociety' in weeks to come, it appears a real-life group whose moniker is ‘Morpho’ might be the real-life underground inspiration.

Welcome to the New Normal 

Morpho (aka Wild Neutron) seems to have been in the cyberespionage business for a while now, but coincidentally for Mr. Robot fans sleuthed their way into our zeitgeist just last week. As a 'brave new world' reminder of our ’New Normal’ ever since Eric Snowden's arrival on the scene, Morpho’s form of corporate hacking targets major IT operations of multinationals spanning the globe.

The elevator pitch on this group is based on a modus operandi that targets intellectual property, usually of companies in the midst of high-level criminal activity or during major financial periods of mergers and acquisitions.

FSociety following in Morpho’s footsteps?

Even for the layman, you'll be able to follow the plot-lines, if you make mental notes of Mr. Robot’s techie jargon -- because you’ll often hear some of the same terms repeated over and over again, such as ‘exploits,’ and ’RATS.’

While remaining cunningly covert, according to a number cyber-sleuths who follow this type of activity, Morpho legitimately has the technical know-how to engage in all of these nefarious acts.

Exploits

A computer exploit like what the name implies is using something to gain advantage over others. In the cybersecurity world, it is a piece of software, a chunk of data, or a sequence of commands that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, in order to cause a certain behavior on a computer. Such behavior frequently includes things like gaining control of a computer system, allowing privilege escalation, or a denial-of-service attack.

Episode 5 of Mr. Robot: ‘Exploits’ is literally and figuratively devoted to exploits. First a security card reader is cloned in order to get inside ECorp (aka Evil Corp)’s data center at their Steel Mountain facility, and later a phone identity is hi-jacked to deliver a very distressing text message to a character that needs to be removed from the scene.

Cleverly, the cyber capers of exploiting in the show draws parallels between machines and humans. As Elliot the lead character states, “People always make the best exploits. . . and if you can hack the right person, all of a sudden you have a powerful piece of malware.”

Morpho, on the other is much more technical in their use of exploits. Recently, the group was said to have switched from a Java exploit to a new vulnerability. These new attacks are said to be using a combination of an unknown Flash Player exploit and a stolen Acer code-signing certificate. The combo allows the Morpho crew to gain access to infected machines, and then either harvest sensitive data or take control of various services of the infected workstations.

RATs

RATs (or Remote Access Trojans) were used by FSociety to hit ECorp in the pilot. It's central purpose was to exfiltrate data anonymously as well as control Evil Corp's IT infrastructure. This is a frequent technique, seen in most of the major data breaches.

It’s said that Morpho also uses RATs to sniff out targeted information on other computers they infect. This group has also been known to install back doors, allowing infected machines to communicate with command-and-control servers over encrypted connections.

It's been said, that the smartest thing this group did, however, was to clean up after themselves. Once emails and confidential data were confiscated, Morpho securely deleted files and event logs. It was as if thy had never broken in.

Sounds like a page right out of Mr. Robot's playbook. But, as outlined above -- it was most likely the other way around -- where the show-runners learned about Morpho's achievements, and developed their screenplays accordingly.

So is Morpho the real-life inspiration for Mr Robot?

Well, it’s not been documented as such. In fact, if you were to ask that question of Sam Esmail, the show’s creator you probably wouldn’t get him to admit to it.

When that same query was presented to him by FastCompny’s KC Ifeanyi, he gave less than a vague  explanation as to the inspiration: “This idea germinated throughout the years, and I really wanted to put pen to paper and go for it. It was a combination of things: the financial collapse had happened. I’m Egyptian, so the Arab Spring influenced [and] inspired me. Those events came together in this perfect storm, and I started writing it as a movie.”

So be that as it may for now . . . something keeps telling me that as we learn more about the machinations of Mr. Robot in the episodes to come, we're going to find more underpinnings that tie this plot-line to real-life hacking in the corporate world of greed and corruption. RATS, I'll  even bet my best exploits on it!