Takes one to know one. When Kor Adana signed on as a technical adviser and writer for “Mr. Robot,” the USA Network’s award-winning show about hackers, it wasn’t a stretch. Adana had done some hacking in his teen years and had worked in network security for an automotive corporation, so he was totally familiar with the bells and whistles of the computer world. Although he long ago left the underground cyber community behind, the 33-year-old Michigan native still enjoys the rush of designing hacking schemes as a co-producer for the show, which returns in October.
How do you make sure the hacking material is realistic?
We try to structure all our scenes with character motivation anyone can understand. You can follow what’s going on without knowing all the tech details. But if you do have the skill set to know what program [Elliot, the main character played by Rami Malek] is using, all of that will make sense for the stakes in the scene.
What kind of tech advice do you give?
Since I’m also a writer and producer on the show, if there’s a plot point that a character has to do a hack, if it’s not in reality, we don’t go down that road. I’m there to show how this is a realistic way for Elliot to hack, then I incorporate more tech details, and work with our animation and video departments, so that every single computer screen and smart screen is accurately reflecting the hack in our script. And in post, I work with our editors to make sure the timing of the screen behavior is accurate.
What kind of feedback do you get from the tech and hacker communities?
I get remarkably positive feedback from the hacker community. I get people who say they don’t watch much TV, but I watch “Mr. Robot,” because they appreciate how we portray the hacker landscape.
Is ‘Mr. Robot’ a cautionary tale about hacking?
It’s a cautionary tale about the technology we are so dependent on today. We are able to play with all the vulnerabilities and risks associated with various services that normal people aren’t aware of. If it increases the awareness out there and how people are using their devices, and helps them secure those devices, then we have performed a real service.