Mr. Robot’s Co-Producer and Writer – Kor Adana
Kor Adana is a writer and co-producer on Mr. Robot. He started hacking in his teens and later went to school for CS. All the while he was hoping to become a writer for TV. Eventually he left a career in engineering, worked on a few projects, and then met Sam Esmail, the creator of Mr. Robot. He’s been working on the show ever since.
Mr. Robot season three premieres tonight on USA.
Craig Cannon [00:00] – Hey this is Craig Cannon and you’re listening to Y Combinator’s podcast. Today’s guest is Kor Adana. Kor is a writer and co-producer on the show Mr. Robot. If you’re a Mr. Robot fan or you want to watch the show and don’t mind skipping ahead, Season Three is actually premiering tonight October 11th. That’s on USA and you can also find it online. As always, we’re posting the transcript and the video up on the blog, that’s blog.ycombinator.com. Alright, here we go. Kor, how’d you get into hacking?
Kor Adana [00:29] – Well, when I was younger, I always took things apart. I’m the son of an engineer so I always had tools around the house, I had soldering irons, stuff like that, take apart TVs and VCRs and just figure out how things worked and I remember my dad had this old 4866/66 PC. It’s like the first PC that I started working with and learning, just messing around with and that kind of evolved into building my own machines. I was fascinated by just ordering the different components, motherboard, RAM, the hard drive, putting it all together and it was a very painful process of like, “Oh, I accidentally reformatted the wrong partition and lost all my files or I have to reformat ’cause I infected myself with some bullshit virus.” It was a great learning experience of just learning how hardware and software worked. And then by the time I was in middle school, I was more interested in breaking into systems and learning how, I wanted to be the cool hacker that was portrayed in War Games.
Craig Cannon [01:36] – Yeah, what was the media that you were consuming at that point, that you’re like, “Ah, that’s me?”
Kor Adana [01:40] – All right, I’m ashamed, not ashamed, it’s a great movie. Okay, I’m not ashamed. Ashamed is a wrong word. Hackers was a big influence.
Craig Cannon [01:47] – Yes, okay.
Kor Adana [01:49] – War Games was a big influence, so I wanted to be that cool hacker guy that knew more than you did when it came to technology and computers so that was like a driving force in my stupid adolescent mind.
Craig Cannon [02:02] – Yeah, okay.
Kor Adana [02:05] – And it was cool, though, because I had that kind of mindset of like how do things work? I want to figure out how things work and I want to use systems in a way that they weren’t supposed to be used for, which is a definition of hacking. SI remember I would like get in trouble on purpose in middle school so I could go into the principal’s office because the secretaries in the principal’s office, when you waited there, were using the computers to log into this AS/400 system so I would talk to them. I would look at their screens, I would hover over their shoulders and I would get as much information as I possibly could and my first real hack, so to speak, was in middle school when I broke into this AS/400 system.
Craig Cannon [02:49] – Is this like through the school’s intranet? Are you doing this from home?
Kor Adana [02:52] – Through the school’s intranet.
Craig Cannon [02:54] – Okay.
Kor Adana [02:54] – The only thing, I didn’t really do anything from home until I started dialing into our library, we had a public library dial-up service connection, so I could dial into those servers, but I did it from school intranet, which was fun, which was awesome, didn’t really cause any major damage.
Craig Cannon [03:09] – Okay.
Kor Adana [03:10] – But what’s interesting…
Craig Cannon [03:10] – But wait. What were you trying to do, like change your class schedule?
Kor Adana [03:14] – I just wanted to get in, I didn’t want to change anything. I didn’t want to get caught, I was really paranoid and nervous about getting caught, just wanted to get in. Getting in was enough, and it was awesome because years later in the writers’ room for Mr. Robot and you’ll see this in Season Two, I think it’s the fourth episode, fourth or fifth episode, in the beginning where there’s this V.O. (voice over) of Elliot talking about his first major hack and he’s like, “I broke into my library’s,” or I can’t remember if it was library or school but “I broke into this AS/400 system using a vulnerable FTP service,” and that’s his first hack and that was my first hack and it was just fun to kind of incorporate that into the show in that way so around that time, I would say middle school, high school, I also really got interested in prank calls. And I would get together with my friends and call different businesses, impersonate different people, and really terrible way to spend your time and not really thoughtful, but it was, honestly, a boot camp for social engineering and I think like my writer brain was attracted to the character side of it and the narrative side of it, building out a story, getting the person on the other line to buy whatever bullshit story that you’re feeding them and in this kind of weird, twisted sense of manipulation that’s taking place. But that was kind of my foray into social engineering…
Craig Cannon [04:46] – Was it social engineering for comedy’s sake, like the Crank Yankers type stuff?
Kor Adana [04:52] – Just for comedy’s sake, yeah, I was a huge fan of the Jerky Boys album.
Craig Cannon [04:53] – Of course, yeah.
Kor Adana [04:56] – And Crank Yankers came out around that time too so it was just like getting a laugh or humiliating the person on the other line–
Craig Cannon [05:04] – It’s nice.
Kor Adana [05:04] – Or getting them to have a funny response or a funny reaction, which in hindsight, is stupid but it taught me a lot because you could use it, I mean when you’re looking at it from a social engineering perspective, you could use it for the goal of obtaining information or obtaining any kind of protocol that the person on the other end is engaged in with whatever business they’re at, so it really did help and it kind of helped me in two ways: helped me in the hacker sense and it helped me in the writing sense because it was like early improv classes for just like developing character and getting to the point and getting your information across in a short, three-minute span, you have a short amount of time to achieve this goal so how are you spend it? What’s the dialogue you’re going to use, what’s the plan? What’s the game?
Craig Cannon [05:59] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [06:00] – It was interesting, it was a lot of fun.
Craig Cannon [06:02] – And at that point, do you realize maybe I have a greater aptitude for storytelling and this is my passion?
Kor Adana [06:07] – It was weird, I kind of, I danced around both for a lot of my childhood.
Craig Cannon [06:15] – You still are.
Kor Adana [06:15] – Yeah, I still am kind of, it’s weird, but ever since I was 11, I knew that I want to write and direct. I was a huge film buff, had a massive movie collection and was obsessed with just classic cinema. I told my dad, this is what I want to do want to do. I go to film school, after a graduate. I had all planned out, I’m going to go to NYU Tisch…
Craig Cannon [06:35] – Nice.
Kor Adana [06:35] – School of the Arts and I’m going to learn how to really become an auteur and he was like, “No. I’m not going to waste a bunch of money for you to end up some starving bum on the street. You’re never going to make,” and I understand where he was coming from, both of my parents are fairly conservative so he was like, “I’m not going to help pay for college for a film school, you’re good with computers. You’ve always been good with computers so go get a computer engineering degree.” AT the time, it was a huge rift between my father and me because I really resented him for that and I hated the idea of that, but I went down that path. I studied computer engineering for two years, first few years in college and then I got really specific, I got a real specific focus on network security, which was great and I remember taking classes, just learning how to work with router configurations and switches and there’s one Linux security class where we did like real red team, blue team simulations…
Craig Cannon [07:36] – Really?
Kor Adana [07:36] – Where like half the class were the defenders and they had a Linux box that they had to lock down and they had like an hour to do so and then the rest of the class were the red team and he gave us a couple systems a Knoppix live CD and he was like, “Go to town. You have to an internet connection you have the CD. Try and break in.”
Craig Cannon [07:53] – Okay.
Kor Adana [07:54] – We would do this and then afterward, we’d share notes and talk about different tactics, what worked, what didn’t work so it was a lot of fun and it really helped ’cause shortly after that, I ended getting a cyber security job for a major corporation and at that point, I was developing security policies and working with enterprise-level servers and doing penetration testing and doing all that stuff, while at the same time, in the back of my head, I’m always like, I always knew I’m not going to spend the rest of my life doing this. If I had to do this for the rest of my life, I would kill myself, like I don’t want to be a corporate drone, I never wanted to be.
Craig Cannon [08:35] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [08:35] – My plan was just like live below my means, save up enough money, I’m making good money working in IT, right? Keep writing, keep making short films, try and make your own independent films on the side, learn as much as I can, and when the time comes, pull the plug and quit, then switch jobs and get a job in the entertainment industry.
Craig Cannon [08:56] – And how did you know when the time came? ‘Cause this is like a very common thing across tech. People are offered a great job, it’s a cool company, they’re interested in the work but maybe it’s not they’re calling. How did you know it was the point where you’re like, all right, this is it, I’m doing it?
Kor Adana [09:12] – When I’m actually going to jump and do it?
Craig Cannon [09:13] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [09:15] – It was really just based on finances. I had a spreadsheet and my girlfriend helped me put this together where if you save this amount of money every single month, this is how much you’ll have in your bank account and it’s really a question of how long could you go in the entertainment industry and how much would you have to dip into your savings and the way we calculated all the numbers was like, “Hey, I could take an unpaid internship for three years.” So I saved up enough where I could…
Craig Cannon [09:45] – Three years work.
Kor Adana [09:45] – Three years of working for no income, I would be fine, and in my mind, I’m like, all right, if I can’t make this happen in three years, then I’m not cut out to do it.
Craig Cannon [09:56] – And had you been in L.A. already?
Kor Adana [09:57] – I was already in L.A.
Craig Cannon [09:57] – You were working full time?
Kor Adana [10:00] – I working full time doing cyber security in L.A. I moved from Michigan to California, knowing in the back my mind like, alright, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in L.A., so should be closer to L.A. and I was working out of Torrance and I was living in Santa Monica at the time and I just knew, I always knew that in the back of my mind, I wasn’t going to stay there and it was weird. It gave me this kind of freedom to, this kind of apathetic attitude which was, I guess, perceived as like confident. And like I really know my shit because I don’t care about the outcome…
Craig Cannon [10:37] – This job or whatever.
Kor Adana [10:37] – Yeah. And it did really well for my, like I ended up doing really well and moving up the corporate ladder relatively quickly in five or six years because of that attitude, which is really weird but it did teach me a lot about just like how you present yourself, how you present your ideas and it helped a lot in the writers’ room, in different aspects of my life. It was a huge help but yeah, once I realized I could, I’m giving myself some time, I’ll do that.
Craig Cannon [11:05] – Were your side projects finding traction while you were working full time?
Kor Adana [11:09] – Well, here’s the thing, this was another thing that was the impetus for it, I had a lot of content. I had a lot of spec scripts, I was entering competitions. I was entering these fellowships, I had zero contacts. I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know any assistants, I didn’t know any managers. I didn’t know any agents, so I was thinking, alright, I have all the stuff that I want people to read, may be good, may be bad, a lot of it’s bad but I don’t know anyone so the only way I’m going to meet people is if I make the jump and start doing this so that’s what I did and I made it a goal that wherever I worked that I would like try and expand my network as much as possible and it’s something it’s challenging for me ’cause I’m an introvert. I don’t really love to go out and grab drinks or go to social gatherings but I made it a point like, “Hey, every other assistant that I meet, every other intern that I meet, every other, you know, anyone working in this industry, I want to get to know them, what they’re working on, what they want to do,” and it really helped ’cause it really helped kind of like help me navigate this new kind of uncharted territory of where am I going to, what my next job is going to be. If I look back on my career in entertainment, it’s based on some of those early relationships that I made when I first made the jump.
Craig Cannon [12:24] – And as a fellow introvert, what were the most effective tactics for transitioning into that media space. What are your pro tips?
Kor Adana [12:34] – Okay, so this is super nerdy and weird and there’s something oddly, in the entertainment industry, there’s something oddly transactional about the relationships and if you go into it understanding that, like it’s not to say that they’re insincere because you obviously have friendships but there is is kind of notion of we’re going to grab drinks because at some point, I can help you accomplish your goal and you can help, and you can help me accomplish my goal, something transactional in that nature, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So have that expectation going into it, that that’s kind of what other people are looking for in the exchange a lot of the time and I had this spreadsheet, I have a terrible memory.
Craig Cannon [13:20] – But a lot of spreadsheets.
Kor Adana [13:21] – I had a lot of spreadsheets and charts. I had the spreadsheet of like, alright, here all the people, here’s where they worked. Here’s what we talked about.
Craig Cannon [13:29] – Whoa.
Kor Adana [13:29] – Here is, you know, here are the projects that they’re working on and here, you know, just so I can kind of solidify it in my mind so I don’t embarrass myself ’cause it has happened to me before where like I meet someone and then like six months later, I run into them again and I introduce myself and like, “Oh, no, we already met.” And then I feel like a terrible person.
Craig Cannon [13:48] – Yep, okay.
Kor Adana [13:48] – I was trying to avoid that and it’s really just about making yourself indispensable at wherever you’re at so whether it was an internship for a production company or whether I was an assistant for a producer or show runner..
Craig Cannon [14:03] – Right, okay, so, wait. Yeah, step back a little bit so you’re just some nerd and you’re like, “I’m going to make movies,” then what do you start doing, how do you get in?
Kor Adana [14:12] – My first job was an unpaid intern at a production company where, along with a bunch of other unpaid interns, we sat in the basement all day and read script submissions and wrote something called coverage, which is basically a book report on a screenplay so instead of an executive having to read the entire screenplay, they read coverage that was written by an intern or an assistant and it’s basically like a two-page summary of the entire story and then a page of comments and critiques. My first day doing that, I’m like, this is great. This is awesome, I get to read and critique scripts all day and judge them, it’s awesome, and then after a couple weeks, I’m like, alright, this is getting old…
Craig Cannon [14:54] – This is exhausting.
Kor Adana [14:54] – This is exhausting but in a weird way, it motivated me too ’cause I’m like, these guys are working writers and some of this is complete crap and it was validating. Even though I was at the bottom of the ladder, it was validating in some weird way that if they could do it, if they can get representation, if they can make a living doing this, then it gave me some hope, like I could do it too, right? So I did that for a couple months and I was able to turn that into an assistant position so I finally started getting paid, even though I was getting paid much…
Craig Cannon [15:27] – Nice.
Kor Adana [15:27] – And took four months, three or four months, which is a lot less than three years, which is great, and I kept this whole thing secret from my parents, by the way, did not…
Craig Cannon [15:37] – What, really?
Kor Adana [15:37] – They thought I was still working cyber security making six figures.
Craig Cannon [15:41] – Amazing.
Kor Adana [15:41] – And I was making nothing and then shortly after that, I was making like $600 a week in my first job with no benefits, no nothing.
Craig Cannon [15:48] – Oh my god.
Kor Adana [15:50] – And oddly, it was very weird ’cause when I told them both, my dad’s reaction was acceptance. He was like, “Fine, you already have a degree you can fall back on, you have contacts in information security, you can always go back to that. You’re single, you’re young, you don’t have a family. You don’t have any people depending on you. This is the time to go try this,” and my mom was super pissed.
Craig Cannon [16:14] – Oh, no way, okay.
Kor Adana [16:16] – The best quote from that conversation, when I finally told her, was me saying, mom, stop stressing about this. You’re making yourself miserable, and then she went, “I’m not making myself miserable. You’re making me miserable.” And she’s like, “Why would you leave six figures and a great pension.”
Craig Cannon [16:34] – Oh, so was she like the puppet master when you when you were a kid and you didn’t realize it?
Kor Adana [16:37] – No. It was weird because she was, when I was younger, she was always supportive of like my art projects or anything creatively that I was passionate about, like whether I wanted to buy a musical instrument or whether I wanted to go do a short film, she was always on board.
Craig Cannon [16:49] – Whoa.
Kor Adana [16:50] – My dad was always like, “Don’t waste your time too much because you can make a living,” like go down this sensible logical path and it was weird how they flip-flopped, but now she’s fine.
Craig Cannon [17:02] – Okay.
Kor Adana [17:02] – She’s cool now.
Craig Cannon [17:04] – Exactly, yeah, success is like, alright, fine. Okay, so you eventually, you become this assistant and then you worked on a show that didn’t work out, right? Okay.
Kor Adana [17:13] – I worked on a couple of shows actually, just as assistants to producers, assistants to show runners and I ended up becoming the show runner’s assistant to Adam Fierro and Gina Matthews, and Grant Scharbo are producers of the show called Rush that only lasted for one season on USA but through that experience, I got to know the executives and the assistants at USA really well and shortly after that show kind of died, I grabbed drinks with one of the executives at USA. His name is Jake Castiglioni, great guy. and he was telling me, like we were just talking like you and I right now and I told him a little bit about my history and my previous career and that whole thing and he was like, “Alright, I want you to read this thing that we have that’s coming up from Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot, and let me know you think.” He sends me the script. I read it, I love it, and a give him my feedback and then within a month, he sets up a meeting with Sam and me ’cause Sam was looking for an assistant at that time. And Sam didn’t know that I had a previous life as like a cyber security guy, basically what Elliot did on the show was my old job.
Craig Cannon [18:29] – This is what I’m trying to piece together now because I knew some of your history before we met up, but so much of the show is just mirroring your life. You’re just this corporate guy…
Kor Adana [18:38] – I know, it’s a weird, serendipitous thing that like ’cause he wrote all that…
Craig Cannon [18:41] – But he just wrote a pilot.
Kor Adana [18:44] – He wrote the pilot and shot the pilot before I met him. I didn’t work on the pilot so he had already had the pilot done and he just got the series pickup. USA ordered a season of television so he had to staff a room and get a whole team together so that was around the time where I met him and I hadn’t seen the pilot at that point. I had only read it and even reading it, I’m like, all right, this feels like the perfect show for me and it’s weird, we were kind of talking about this before. I spent so much in my life trying to leave the IT job and I don’t want to be known as the guy, like don’t call me with your IT problem. I don’t want to be that guy, I’m a writer. I want to go pursue my passion, right? And it was weird with Mr. Robot, those two worlds just collided in the coolest way possible because when I was talking with Sam and I’m like, “Hey, I have done all this before. I can help you figure out, we can make E Corp realistic. We can do all these things and we can have these different types of attacks,” and I think we were both really excited at the prospect of just like this new, this kind of partnership so…
Craig Cannon [19:50] – Were you worried about coming on too hot when you read it and you’re like, “Oh my god, this is the thing”?
Kor Adana [19:56] – Not really, I mean, of course, with any meeting, you always hope for the best and then you, personally, I leave, second-guessing everything I said, like after this, I’m going to go home and I’m going to be like, “What the fuck did I say, like that was embarrassing.” You know what I mean?
Craig Cannon [20:10] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [20:12] – That happened with that, but with that, it was pretty quick, I got the news shortly after that meeting that we were going to move forward and…
Craig Cannon [20:22] – Wow.
Kor Adana [20:22] – That was really exciting and it was great, it felt like I knew about this magical thing that hadn’t been released to the world yet and in hindsight, that is even a more kind of important observation for me because I knew that based on my tastes and my history, that I was working on something special and all throughout Season One when we were writing Season One, when we were producing Season One, I knew that it was something that was creative, that was unique, it was something that hasn’t been done before, so it was so kind of validating and satisfying to have it be released and get the kind of recognition that we got that like other people got it and they were craving this kind of hacker thriller story…
Craig Cannon [21:07] – Did you get the sense, ’cause I’ve worked on, even personally, creative projects that you’re like, “Oh, this is good, but it turns out it’s good for like 100 people that are super into it.” Was there anything that signaled to you before it came out that this would be interesting to a larger audience of folks?
Kor Adana [21:23] – That’s why am so captivated by this because most of the time, that’s the case. Most of the time, I’ll write something or I’ll work on something and I’ll be like, “This is awesome,” and then it doesn’t get the reaction, like people don’t feel the same way about it that I do and then I start second-guessing myself, like is my taste off, is something wrong? It’s just not the right timing or where was the mishap, right? With Mr. Robot, it was one of those rare cases where I knew it was good and had it not been successful, I would’ve started to second-guess myself in a way. It’s kind of like where you get into arguments with people about what their movies are and you start second-guessing their taste a little bit.
Craig Cannon [22:04] – Weird, yeah.
Kor Adana [22:05] – But I knew that there were people out there like me who wanted a very cool kind of stylistic character piece about someone like Elliot with the technology portrayed in a realistic fashion, which is something that I knew the community was thriving for, striving for, and to be honest, I’m kind of surprised that it hadn’t happened earlier. There were so many opportunities for it to happen earlier…
Craig Cannon [22:32] – It always seems like a challenge making programming and even just being in a terminal interesting.
Kor Adana [22:38] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [22:38] – That, in and of itself is a difficulty, one thing that I wanted the talk about, we were talking about before is how you guys use Flash because even just typing is unbelievably boring to watch sometimes. Why do you guys use Flash and how do you do the on-screen stuff?
Kor Adana [22:54] – So we shoot everything practically on Mr. Robot, meaning we don’t shoot green screens. We don’t burn anything in in post. To put it in plain terms.
Craig Cannon [23:00] – Put it in plain terms.
Kor Adana [23:03] – If you have a laptop and you’re shooting over someone’s shoulder, you see in the camera what they see in real life. Exactly, exactly. Real code on the screens ready to go on the day of filming.
Craig Cannon [23:13] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [23:15] – Now in order to achieve that, we can’t put Rami in front of a terminal and then give him a list of commands that he has to type and risk spending the whole day waiting for him not to make a syntax error, you know what I mean?
Craig Cannon [23:32] – Right, just one typo.
Kor Adana [23:34] – Just one typo is going to basically ruin the shot and we don’t have the time. The schedule’s already crazy and you’re like every minute, I don’t know how many thousands of dollars you’re wasting of just waiting for other things happen on set. My goal is to make sure everything is as seamless as possible and as foolproof as possible on the day we’re filming and the way we achieve that is through Flash animation so I’ll work closely with an animator to create an interactive demo basically where everyone looks like a real desktop environment, looks like a real terminal window but it’s not. It’s all pre-programmed and you can hit any keystroke you want and the right code will show up on the screen, the right command will show up on the screen and the only trigger to move forward to the next screen is a special keystroke. We’ll make sure frame out the hands for this specific shot and we’ll set Rami down in front of the computer and I’ll just say type, I’ll be off to the side. I’ll be like, type, and then I’ll watch the screen and then when it’s time to hit enter, I’ll scream, hit enter, and he hits enter and then the next screen shows up and that screen has the pound sign in the prompt because he ran some script and he ended up getting root on the box and then that’s the moment, I’m like, “Alright, you’re in. Let’s wait here for a couple of moments.” It’s a necessity for just being able to film like that on the day and I know people have complained before, like why are you using Flash?
Kor Adana [25:05] – And Flash is so outdated and it’s what’s available to us in terms of the crew and the video playback department and the animators who are on the crew who are on the show, just it’s a close collaboration with them to achieve a realistic-looking copy for what…
Craig Cannon [25:24] – Yeah, well, it makes sense, in the interviews I’ve heard from you in the past, you’re spending weeks getting a lot of these things done and if you’re sick one day and you’re not there to watch him, if you had to do this in real life, obviously you would shut the whole thing down.
Kor Adana [25:38] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [25:38] – ‘Cause you’d just be over your shoulder saying, “Yeah, no, put a slash there. Put three dots there,” or whatever…
Kor Adana [25:43] – There are times where I can’t be on set, I try to be on set as often as possible but there are times where I’m prepping for the next week’s animations so I can be on set for this day and I know it’s only an easy, it’s an easy app so he opens the laptop and it’s a lock screen. He has to put in a password and hit enter and unlock it and then maybe one other action, like he’ll open the terminal or he’ll open Mozilla Firefox with the mouse and if it’s something that easy, I know that he can figure that out. He doesn’t need handholding for that one and then on the flip side, there are super complicated ones that took three months to build…
Craig Cannon [26:20] – What’s the most complicated one so far?
Kor Adana [26:23] – Season Three had a very complicated one, which I don’t want to talk about.
Craig Cannon [26:27] – Yeah .
Kor Adana [26:27] – Shouldn’t have said. But in session two, I think it was the first scene in episode 204, so that would be 2.3 and it’s the one I referenced earlier of him talking with the voiceover about his first hack and he has four terminal screen windows open up, he has exploit code in one window. He is an IRC chat with Darlene, he has a bunch of things going on, he’s connecting to an onion site using Tor, that one took probably about two months.
Craig Cannon [26:59] – Wow.
Kor Adana [27:01] – I don’t do all this by myself.
Craig Cannon [27:04] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [27:04] – I have an amazing team of consultants that work with me, Ryan Kazanciyan, Andre McGregor, and James Plouffe so oftentimes, I’ll work with them to just really iron out the details of what we’re going to see, what steps of the hack are we going to see, so we don’t have time to show everything. We can only pick like certain beats.
Craig Cannon [27:24] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [27:24] – To your point earlier, I try and choose the most interesting and the most visually appealing aspects of whatever the attack is. I’ll work with them to make sure the syntax is all correct and get screenshots or video recordings and we’ll do it in a virtual machine environment. Try and create it ahead of time so I have as much content as possible that I can take to the animator and be like, all right, just copy this, connect this and then it’s a whole, it’s just like a script. There’s a whole revision process with the animations of making sure there aren’t typos, making sure the cursors are in the right places, making sure the behavior of the screens looks realistic ’cause it’s all, none of it’s real so it’s…
Craig Cannon [28:08] – But the code compiles, right? Like for all this stuff.
Kor Adana [28:12] – I mean the code that we’re using, yes, but we’re not going to show, we never show enough for you to…
Craig Cannon [28:18] – It’s not an instructional.
Kor Adana [28:18] – It’s not. You wouldn’t be able to watch this show and be like, “Oh, I can hack into a prison. and compromise the PLC and open up the prison doors,” it’s not going to be like that but if you do know, if you are familiar with a certain exploiters are like a good example is, I think it was 207 last year. Early in an episode in one of the teasers we had, Trenton hacking Mobley’s phone and she uses Stage Fright and for a moment we show just a little bit of Stage Fright.
Craig Cannon [28:50] – What is that, for people who don’t know?
Kor Adana [28:52] – Stage Fright was a very popular Android script that was a huge vulnerability that was disclosed a few years back and luckily it worked for our timetable in the show, which is a whole nother thing we can talk about.
Craig Cannon [29:07] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [29:10] – For something like that, you would know if you looked, if you just took some the lines of code and put them into Google and searched it, you would find some exploits for Stage Fright and you would be able to compare those and see that that’s legitimate. There’s no way that you’re going to watch that scene, like you don’t have enough time and we don’t have enough material to show you in the show that you can go off and do this by yourself.
Craig Cannon [29:34] – Okay, yeah. I think you mentioned in one of the podcasts that you are just watching old DEF CON talks for inspiration because as I’ve, I’m up-to-date now, I was wondering like are you guys getting exhausting figuring out new ways to invent the wheel?
Kor Adana [29:52] – Well, here’s the thing, Ryan and I talk about this all the time because it’s something that we struggle with ’cause we don’t want to keep reusing what we’ve already done and there are new disclosures and new vulnerabilities and new attacks that come out all the time and there are new, exciting things that can even get showcased at DEF CON or other conferences and we want to have a chance to use those so the way we kind of get around it and justify it in our heads, are like, all right, maybe this wasn’t disclosed till 2016. Maybe it wasn’t disclosed till 2017. That doesn’t mean that the hole wasn’t there. That doesn’t mean the bug wasn’t there to begin with and it doesn’t and that someone like Elliot could have had access to the tools or the scripts or created them himself, I mean whatever we need to service the story and to use it so, in that sense, we kind of get around our time issue…
Craig Cannon [30:42] – You kind of fudge it a little bit.
Kor Adana [30:42] – We kind of fudge it a little bit but in terms of like I don’t think there’s ever a concern of “Oh, we’re going to run out of ideas.” It just forces us to be more creative about how are we going to achieve this in and what are the different layers of the attack and what are the attack vectors? And there a bunch of different ways to skin a cat and we can change one aspect of it to make it feel fresh and new and a great example of that is like depending on you choosing which character we want to use to do certain hacks. Angela dropping a femtocell at Evil Corp and then running a command, that’s not a big deal for someone like Elliot or Darlene, but we were able to build a tense scene out of it because it was Angela who was doing it, so it’s always like there are different ways to approach the scene and build out the tension to make it feel fresh. I mean it’s not an easy thing to do but it’s something that we struggle with a lot.
Craig Cannon [31:40] – No, but then you’re trying to balance it out like creating some weird MacGyver-type scenario where you’re just artificially introducing these conflicts to work around.
Kor Adana [31:49] – Yeah, it’s a little bit of both ’cause sometimes it’s, sometimes it would be artificial like conflicts to work around and a great example of this is is episode 105 when Elliot needs to get into Steel Mountain and do the whole Raspberry Pi hack. They are a bunch of roadblocks that we put in front of him and it was fun to see how he figures out to get around those and how Mobley and Romero are helping him from the sidelines, that’s all fun stuff to mine, right? So it can come from a bunch of different places. Is it can be MacGyver-like situations or is it going to be a character conflict or is it going to be some kind of wound that the character is dealing with it that’s is making it very difficult to get past this particular roadblock? And how are they going to react and how are they going to treat the situation, that’s what fun about drama. It’s like punching your characters and putting them in these really difficult situations and seeing how they react, right?
Craig Cannon [32:48] – Yeah, and then how have you dealt with these hacks over time, because again, the show starts in 2015, right? And so how are you managing to even acquire old versions of software at this point?
Kor Adana [33:00] – It’s becoming more and more difficult every season. Super easy, Season One because we are like pretty close to our timeline, Season Two was more challenging. Season Three was very challenging. and luckily, we work with different companies, like the company that we’re working with to create our cellphone animations, all of our mobile apps, they have a whole library of old ROMs and old versions of software so all I need to know is like, “Alright, did this thing exist in 2015?” I can find screenshots of it, hopefully I can find a YouTube video of it, see what it looked like so I can give them as much information and look, hey, find this old rom and just copy that, make sure it looks exactly like that.
Craig Cannon [33:44] – Okay.
Kor Adana [33:46] – I mean we use Signal on the show and if you have Signal on your phone now, you’ll see it looks completely different than the way looked in 2015.
Craig Cannon [33:51] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [33:53] – It’s kind of a pain but it’s fun to stay authentic to the time, you know?
Craig Cannon [34:02] – Do you use Flash or videos on the phone as well? Are they interfacing with…
Kor Adana [34:07] – They’re from Flash apps on the phone.
Craig Cannon [34:08] – Oh, really?
Kor Adana [34:08] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [34:09] – Okay, man, I need to get into Flash I never thought I would say that…
Kor Adana [34:13] – The only thing that you would ever want to use Flash for is working on a television show like Mr. Robot but, yeah, it’s helped us immensely in terms of just making it easy for actors to put the device in the actor’s hands and the phones are easier because these guys have worked with phones before so when I say, “Alright, all you’re going to do is reject the call,” they know to do or all you’re going to do is reject the call, then you’re going to open up this app, look at it, scroll through it and then lock the phone.
Craig Cannon [34:41] – Okay.
Kor Adana [34:41] – That’s a much easier conversation than sitting next to Rami when he has like a very complicated set of commands that he needs to type into a terminal screen and…
Craig Cannon [34:51] – Right.
Kor Adana [34:53] – So it’s, they’re different, there are varying degrees of difficulty there, you know?
Craig Cannon [34:57] – Yeah, it seems like you have it you have an added advantage as the writer-/producer ’cause previous technical advisors that I’ve talked to are like, they’re the hired gun that comes in either in the beginning or the end where it seems like at least you can push a little bit more weight. I’ve been wondering if there were certain hacks that were just too technical that you were trying to push through.
Kor Adana [35:17] – All the time, all the time.
Craig Cannon [35:19] – Okay, do you have examples that you talk about?
Kor Adana [35:21] – He’s the weird thing about examples is there are things that I’ve thrown out there that either will get rejected outright or get saved for later.
Craig Cannon [35:29] – Okay.
Kor Adana [35:31] – I don’t want to get too descriptive about something because I know that there are things that we’re going to, like if we didn’t use them in Season Three, we’re going to use them in Season Four or we are going to use them in Season Five but being a writer-producer is definitely a huge advantage on a show like this because I’m there while we’re breaking the story. I’m there pitching out ideas, I’m helping to write the scripts and give notes on the scripts and so I can always come at it from a place of being technically accurate and saying I’ll let this slide and I’ll choose my battles but something else, like I won’t let this slide and I’ll fight to make this slightly different so we can keep it true to how it would be staged in reality. It’s great ’cause I’m there for every day in the writers’ room, I’m there on set working with the animators, working with the whole crew in production and just like right now, I mean I’m going to go back to our post house to just where we’re editing Season Three. It’s cool to see it from inception to completion and be a part of and being able to make sure that the technology and the accuracy is still threaded through the narrative at each step of the way, whether that’s working with the actors to make sure they’re interacting with it correctly or with the editors to make sure that they’re cutting it together in a way that makes sense, you know? With that being said, Season Three is coming up October 11th on USA.
Craig Cannon [36:56] – Plug.
Kor Adana [37:00] – Yeah, that’s the plug before I forget.
Craig Cannon [37:01] – I’m trying to order these questions mentally.
Kor Adana [37:05] – Yeah. We kind of went through, we jumped around a lot.
Craig Cannon [37:09] – We jumped.
Kor Adana [37:10] – I think we hit a lot of them but.
Craig Cannon [37:12] – I think so too, maybe we should just like to go off on a tangent then and talk about the ARG, the Alternate Reality Game.
Kor Adana [37:17] – Sure.
Craig Cannon [37:18] – That there’s a very active subreddit about.
Kor Adana [37:22] – Yeah, about that…
Craig Cannon [37:22] – Could you just explain it?
Kor Adana [37:24] – Yeah, so basically and we really started going crazy with this in Season Two, any URL, web address, IP address, host name that you see on any of our screens, any QR code, any barcode that you see anywhere on the show in the frame of Mr. Robot will lead you somewhere and it will lead you to a puzzle possibly. It’ll lead you to an experience that may mimic what you see on the show or in that scene. It’ll lead you to something that feels like it’s a part of the story and more often than not, that puzzle is part of a larger meta-puzzle, which is our ARG. And it’s a really fun aspect of my job, takes a lot of work to prepare and the folks at USA Digital are great collaborators with me on this and we just added Ryan Clarke and his team at Curious Codes who does the badge challenges at DEF CON. He’s been a puzzle master for years so we brought him on board and during Season Two, which has been a great collaboration between all of us and it’s really satisfying to see the response on the subreddit, response on Twitter and just watch them, watching them figure out these puzzles and working together and sharing information, it’s like this open-source hacker mindset at work but it’s all about our show and it’s this is level of interaction between us and them, which is fantastic, it’s great and it’s one of the most satisfying aspects of my job just watching that play out, it’s so much fun.
Craig Cannon [39:13] – I once heard that the writers of Lost were actually…I think Lost is before Reddit, maybe contemporary.
Kor Adana [39:21] – I think so, I think so, I’m not sure.
Craig Cannon [39:23] – Yeah, regardless, they were going on forums of some kind and reading about the conspiracy theories and then including elements of that in the show later on. Are you guys getting involved in that way, like it’s…
Kor Adana [39:35] – Maybe. I think that’s about as much I can say.
Craig Cannon [39:38] – Okay, well…
Kor Adana [39:38] – Maybe. All I know and they know this ’cause I’ve seen them post about it, I read almost everything…
Craig Cannon [39:46] – Okay.
Kor Adana [39:47] – Whether or not it’s being incorporated only time will tell but we definitely read it so we are watching and listening.
Craig Cannon [39:54] – Well, so I’ve never interacted with a show in this way, are the puzzles cumulative? Like for Season Two, for example, was it working toward some goal?
Kor Adana [40:04] – At first, it didn’t feel like that, if you start playing. So you’ll solve a puzzle and you’ll get a password or you’ll get a quote and that’ll be the end of that kind of puzzle, right?
Craig Cannon [40:15] – Right, does it tell it’s the end?
Kor Adana [40:18] – It doesn’t, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
Craig Cannon [40:20] – Okay.
Kor Adana [40:20] – Depends on what you’re doing
Craig Cannon [40:20] – Okay.
Kor Adana [40:21] – And then at the very end, there’s kind of grand puzzle that kind of hints at like, “Hey, you need to go back and find whatever the quote was that you found at the end of this puzzle from Season Two and put that in here and do the same thing for a bunch of other pieces of the puzzle that were spread out like peppered throughout the season to unlock this greater meta-puzzle.” That’s about as descriptive as I want to get with it ’cause part of the fun is just having them figure it out because these guys are brilliant guys and girls, brilliant.
Craig Cannon [40:53] – Of course, yeah.
Kor Adana [40:55] – And it’s just so much fun to see them work on it together.
Craig Cannon [40:58] – They do have a couple questions for you so we’ll see what you can answer.
Kor Adana [41:02] – Yeah, probably not much.
Craig Cannon [41:02] – Yeah, I know. No comment on all this. Okay, so Rouix asks where do things stand with the Season Two ARG winners? Did we miss a clue to continue or are things still being put in place for them?
Kor Adana [41:19] – The Season two ARG winners, we have something in store for you guys and that’s about as much as I can say.
Craig Cannon [41:26] – This is going to be a short podcast.
Kor Adana [41:28] – This prat of it will be very short. That’s about as much as I can say.
Craig Cannon [41:33] – Were there any moments where you felt that the ARG wouldn’t be solved? The moment that sticks out to me is the kernel panics, which you should explain, they seemed like they would never get to the bottom of them.
Kor Adana [41:44] – It’s funny that he mentions kernel panic because that was one that I thought would get solved a little bit earlier than it did and it was just the sequence where we flashed a frame a piece, like a bunch of different screens like crash screens of a Linux system crashing and if you found the right character on each of those screens in order, it would lead you to another URL.
Craig Cannon [42:08] – Oh my god, okay.
Kor Adana [42:08] – There was a very subtle hint about where that character was like however many spaces across and however many lines down you had to go in order to find that character on all the screens and then put it all together.
Craig Cannon [42:24] – But it’s just white text on a black background.
Kor Adana [42:26] – Yes, yes.
Craig Cannon [42:26] – Wow.
Kor Adana [42:27] – But a bunch of different screens flash so that’s what he’s, took them months to figure that out. But it was cool because like I was asked about it what was going on too and I’m fine with it taking as long as it’s going to take, even if it takes a year, I think there’s something fun about that and something immensely satisfying when it finally does happen, right?
Craig Cannon [42:47] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [42:48] – And the day that it got solved, we were celebrating too. It’s fun for us. It was so much fun to and sometimes we’ll go on Twitter and like drop little hints here or there. We’ll go on the subreddit and we’ll drop little hints but not often and on the flip side, there are some that we were like, “Alright, it’s going to take them forever to figure this out and then they crack in two hours.” It’s hard to gauge but the volatile nature of it is fun.
Craig Cannon [43:18] – You’re probably not going to answer this one, but have all the Easter eggs been found in even Season One?
Kor Adana [43:28] – Season One, yes.
Craig Cannon [43:28] – Okay.
Kor Adana [43:28] – Season Two and Season Three, I cannot talk about for now.
Craig Cannon [43:32] – Next question: how did you feel about our progress through the Season Two ARG, give a report card.
Kor Adana [43:41] – I feel very proud and happy for you guys and I don’t want to say too much but I’ll say that an update is coming up fairly soon about the Season Two ARG.
Craig Cannon [43:55] – Okay.
Kor Adana [43:55] – That’s all I’ll say.
Craig Cannon [43:57] – Sorry, guys, whoever’s listening, very unclear answers.
Kor Adana [44:01] – These guys are wading through all this, like we don’t want to hear the boring shit about his background, get to the ARG stuff and then now they’re cursing my name.
Craig Cannon [44:08] – Yeah, and then meanwhile, the other people listening are feeling the exact opposite way. Bknapple, I guess that means Brooklyn Apple asks, has the ARG 3.0, meaning for Season Three begun or are we jumping the gun?
Kor Adana [44:22] – Maybe, maybe it has begun.
Craig Cannon [44:24] – Alright, let’s get to the other questions.
Kor Adana [44:28] – There’s a strong possibility but maybe not, who knows? If it hasn’t begun, it’ll start soon.
Craig Cannon [44:32] – Yeah, October 13th.
Kor Adana [44:34] – October 11th.
Craig Cannon [44:34] – October 11th, Season Three, what time?
Kor Adana [44:38] – I believe it’s 10 p.m., not sure.
Craig Cannon [44:40] – You can stream online.
Kor Adana [44:40] – Yeah. You can stream it online too.
Craig Cannon [44:44] – Okay, so–
Kor Adana [44:44] – On USA, sorry.
Craig Cannon [44:46] – Oh, yeah King of the Wildfront asks, has any new attack method giving you ideas for things that could be incorporated into the show?
Kor Adana [44:55] – Similar to what we were talking about earlier, it’s like we’re always on the lookout for new attack methods and new tools and tool sets and we’re keeping an eye on different disclosures and exploits and real only challenge that we have is that whole timetable, the timetable element…
Craig Cannon [45:15] – Yeah, which I guess you sort of fudge because it could be like private.
Kor Adana [45:17] – Exactly. We sort of fudge it because, okay, maybe it was not disclosed at that time but hackers were so aware of it or certain members of the community were aware of it. We can just say that Elliot and fsociety were aware of it at that time because they’re awesome hackers so in that sense, we try and incorporate some of the newer developments in that world, in the tech world into the show in that way.
Craig Cannon [45:45] – Are you ever jealous of shows like Black Mirror that get to play with near futures technology?
Kor Adana [45:51] – All the time. It’s weird, I’m conflicted about it. It’s like a love-hate relationship because it’s such a pain in the ass to like get all this right.
Craig Cannon [46:03] – Do it real.
Kor Adana [46:03] – And do it real but it’s so satisfying when you see that these details are being noticed and people are tuning in and they’re excited by the realistic portrayals we have on the show, so that’s extremely satisfying. That makes it all worthwhile but when you’re in the thick of it and when you’re doing it, you’re like wasting, not wasting but spending like three months on this, trying to build out this desktop environment in the sequence, and make sure every last character is you’re thinking, “Wow, it would be so much easier if we were in like 2099 and we would play whatever he wanted,” and add some kind of bullshit to the screen that is still based in reality but not, doesn’t have a reference point, doesn’t have something that people can go look up and be like, oh, you screwed up, you know?
Craig Cannon [46:50] – Right.
Kor Adana [46:52] – This is not what this looked like, so that’s another fear I have all the time. Whenever were airing episodes, I’m watching Twitter. I’m watching our sub and I’m like, all right, what are they going to catch, what are they going to complain about?
Craig Cannon [47:03] – There’s always going to be something.
Kor Adana [47:04] – It’s going to be something, you can’t please everyone. You know, did my team screw up, did I screw up? And I mean most of the time, it’s positive. Most the time it’s good, like our fans are awesome. Yeah, and the fact that they’re nitpicking on that level is a testament to where we are, which is great…
Craig Cannon [47:21] – Totally.
Kor Adana [47:21] – Like if you’re nitpicking just us a line of syntax or a line of code but everything else is kind of all right for you, that’s fine, at least it’s not you know some of the other offenders like hacking into the Department of Defense in under 60 minutes or under 60 seconds, something like that, so it’s nothing compared to what people have been used to for the past, I don’t know, what? Two decades now.
Craig Cannon [47:47] – Easy, yeah. For me, it always feels like someone cares about you, like if they’re going to go to that level of nitpicking, they like the show and they’re…
Kor Adana [47:57] – Yeah, and they’re hard-core fans and they want to, but also, I get it ’cause part of the hacker psyche and part of just IT people in general, ’cause I have a little bit of this too, it’s like, “Alright, you think you guys are good. Let me show you where you’re wrong, right? I’ll show you what what the real case is, what the real situation is,” which is fine.
Craig Cannon [48:19] – Okay, a couple more questions so Rohan Sona-wan, I’m mispronouncing people’s names every single time. Is the code used in the show actually functional in real life if someone were to be hacking into something?
Kor Adana [48:35] – Kind of talked about that earlier, to a degree, yes, and again, it’s just snippets of code. We’re not going to show you every single step but if you were to look up, if you were to just screenshot a bit of our code or a bit of source code that’s on one of the screens and research it, you’ll be able to find it on GitHub. You’ll be able to find it somewhere in its entirety but then again, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be able to really use it. So it’s not like we’re ever going to show every single line of code for and exploit on screen but we’ll, we always have characters running custom-made scripts. We show the output of those scripts. We show different tools on the phone. We like showing pieces of hardware that can be used in a certain way to either compromise the system or get data off of a card, whether it’s an RFID card or RFID chip, something like that so we try and make sure that every thing is based in reality as much as possible.
Craig Cannon [49:34] – Okay, do you ever get jealous when like certain things come out now and you’re just like, “Man, I wish we could just jump like two years ahead and have this technology so we could use his exploit?”
Kor Adana [49:46] – Yes, happens sometimes and the most recent thing in my memory isn’t even an exploit. It’s just technology in general, like wearables and Internet of Things and…
Craig Cannon [50:01] – It’s an Apple Face thing?
Kor Adana [50:01] – Yeah. Like all these things that would be so much fun to incorporate in the show and play with that we are kind of off-limits until our timeline catches up, definitely but again, back to that earlier thing, if it’s something that could potentially be reasonably sold as 2015, then I’m all about exploring it, you know?
Craig Cannon [50:23] – Oh, yeah, this one was kind of a random question. John Coogan asks what precautions do you take when using devices?
Kor Adana [50:31] – I am super paranoid all the time time I enable two-factor authentication on all my services whenever it’s available. I would advise people to use password managers. I use a VPN religiously, regardless of where I am, I’m always using the VPN.
Craig Cannon [50:50] – On your phone as well?
Kor Adana [50:50] – On my phone as well. But, definitely, regardless of what you use, make sure it’s, do some research and make sure it’s, usually the ones that you pay for are the better ones. Some of the free VPNs are kind of, are not so great.
Craig Cannon [51:03] – I think people have difficulty with this stuff because so many companies have figured out how to game SEO.
Kor Adana [51:08] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [51:08] – And so they’re like, “I don’t know what’s legit,” and then they download some crazy malware on their computer.
Kor Adana [51:13] – Totally. I mean that’s why there is a level of research that has to go into it before you decide to invest in one and to use, but it’s totally like I don’t, whether I’m at a coffee shop or at an airport or even if I’m at home or at the office, I’m always using one.
Craig Cannon [51:28] – Okay, you keep your camera?
Kor Adana [51:30] – I don’t.
Craig Cannon [51:30] – Oh!
Kor Adana [51:32] – Which is interesting, I don’t because I think it’s annoying, I don’t think that, I don’t want to dissuade other people from doing it ’cause I think it’s a good practice but my mindset is like if someone has access to my camera, they already have to access my microphone, they already have access my files so I’m already fucked, right? So I have a process running, an app that just tells me whenever any other program on the machine is trying to arm the microphone is tried to use the webcam so I get an alert, at least.
Craig Cannon [51:59] – Okay, what are you concerned about in terms, like everything has software now, right? Are you concerned about your microwave being hacked, your self-driving car, do you have a Tesla?
Kor Adana [52:09] – I don’t have a Tesla, so I’m not concerned about that. I am most concerned about companies that have my private information, my personal information.
Craig Cannon [52:16] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [52:16] – And how they store it. The Equifax example is a great one. They have a duty to ensure that the security around that information is sound and is robust and I think that’s kind of a contract that you enter in with any kind of business when you’re giving up that kind of that level of personal information, so that’s what I’m worried about. I’m worried about other companies not patching their software and having just security holes and vulnerabilities that get exploited and those data leaks happen.
Craig Cannon [52:48] – Okay. Well, then you’re in a perfect position with Evil Corp, right?
Kor Adana [52:52] – Yeah, totally.
Craig Cannon [52:54] – With every podcast now, we have a crypto question, Alchemist Prime (@Rasheed_Moore) asks just what you think in general but I think it’s somewhat related because people talk about coins and distributed file storage, all that kind of stuff. Do you guys pay much attention to that? I know Evil Corp has a coin.
Kor Adana [53:11] – Evil Corp has Ecoin, which will learn more about when you watch the show. We talk about Bitcoin a lot on the show so crypto currencies are a part of one of the plot lines, along with the whole Evil Corp, Phillip Price storyline.
Craig Cannon [53:24] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [53:24] – Personally, I think blockchain is unbelievably exciting and I think it’s the future so I am all for people investing in crypto currencies, investing in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and it is a volatile market right now and you have ICOs coming out every day and that takes some research as well, make sure that you have a good team behind it and that they’re actually working hard and doing what they need to do and it’s not just scam like a pump-and-dump scam but I am all for it and I think it’s the wave of the future and just the blockchain technology itself is exciting to me so I’m all about it and I love that we incorporate some of it into the show, if anything, just to put the question out there in the layperson’s mind, like, “Oh, what is Bitcoin or what is a cryptocurrency?” And if they want to go online and research it and whether they think that it’s something that is here to stay or not, I just love that it’s creating a conversation out there, so I’m proud of that.
Craig Cannon [54:27] – Yeah, I mean it seems that like you guys are doing the job of transferring this idea of the hacker community to millions and millions of people at this point.
Kor Adana [54:35] – I hope so. I mean part of a challenge that I always run up against is how can I make something like this digestible for millions of people and how can I make them understand it? And if they don’t understand it, how can I make it still entertaining for them and still service all those people who do understand it? It’s this give-and-take of like how much tech jargon are you going to put into the scene? How much time are we going to spend explaining this stuff and how much are we just can a kind of gloss over and just assume that our viewers, who are really smart, can put two and two together and we can just move on? So, yeah, that’s why you never have someone on Mr. Robot explaining exactly what Bitcoin is, but you have Philip Price talking about Ecoin and talking about how they’re in control of the ledger and how it differs from Bitcoin because no one is in control of Bitcoin because it’s completely decentralized so we try and find a way to make it work for the narrative without spoonfeeding exposition to you, which is a challenge.
Craig Cannon [55:39] – How do you keep your chops meanwhile? Obviously, you’re all consumed with the show.
Kor Adana [55:43] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [55:43] – It seems or 11 months of the year, as you said.
Kor Adana [55:43] – Yeah.
Craig Cannon [55:46] – How do you keep your technical chops?
Kor Adana [55:48] – I do my best to try and read up on tech blogs, go to conferences and try and read as much as possible. But at some point, I can’t keep up and that’s where my team comes in. That’s where I talk to Ryan or James or Andre and I call them up or text them and be like, hey, we want to do something for this situation. What you think, do you have any grand ideas? And a lot of times, they do.
Craig Cannon [56:10] – Well, then I have two more questions to wrap up.
Kor Adana [56:13] – Sure.
Craig Cannon [56:15] – A lot of people who listen to the podcast are just getting started, a lot of other people who listen to the podcast are think about transitioning their career at some point. If someone wants to get started in hacking, what should they do and if someone wants to get started in writing for TV, what should they do?
Kor Adana [56:31] – Okay, for hacking, I would definitely watch YouTube videos, listen to the hacking podcasts out there, read as many books as you possibly can. Right now, it’s such a prime time for just getting access to information.
Craig Cannon [56:45] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [56:46] – It’s easier than it’s ever been so you can read about it. You can watch videos, you can go to conferences. Go to DEF CON, or if you can’t go, watch the videos on YouTube and just try and educate yourself. And it’s a lot of self-motivated problem-solving so once you figure out, once you learn more about it generally, you can kind of focus in on what about it is appealing to you, is it web application security? It is a perimeter security, whatever really floats your boat in the hacking world, once you get involved in it, you’ll be able to decide that for yourself. And for writing, two things: write as much as possible.
Craig Cannon [57:25] – Are you doing a daily session or how do you…
Kor Adana [57:28] – I used to, ever since I worked on this show, I don’t anymore because a lot of my time is devoted to the show, but figure out whatever your process is. Everyone’s process is different, whether you write late at night, early in the morning and what’s important is like even if you don’t feel like it, it’s the last thing you want to do, just force yourself to do it. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m only going to write when I’m inspired.” It’s like I’m going to force myself to do this every single day until..
Craig Cannon [57:50] – Stephen King’s book. Highly recommend it.
Kor Adana [57:53] – On Writing, it’s great.
Craig Cannon [57:53] – Yeah.
Kor Adana [57:54] – Avoid adverbs because they’re terrible. Yeah, and then in terms of just getting a job in the industry as a television writer, I would say look at internships and try and get an internship, try and learn as much as you can. Ttry and make yourself indispensable at every company that you end up at, just try and get your work out there. Try and hone your craft and get better.
Craig Cannon [58:19] – Move to L.A., would you recommend that?
Kor Adana [58:21] – Definitely I would move to L.A. If you want to be a TV writer, yes. If you want to be a novelist, you can stay wherever you’re at. But if you want to be a TV writer, I would say move to L.A., definitely.
Craig Cannon [58:32] – All right, any teasers for Season Three?
Kor Adana [58:36] – I can say this, that Season Three, a major theme of Season Three is disintegration so we are going to see Elliot and Robot separated in a very cool way that we haven’t seen before so that’ll be interesting just watching this battle play out between Elliot and Mr. Robot, so it’s a wild ride, man. These episodes are coming together and I’m really excited for everyone to see it.
Craig Cannon [59:01] – That’s so cool, alright, thanks.
Kor Adana [59:02] – Thank you.
Craig Cannon [59:05] – Alright, thanks for listening. If you liked this episode, please leave us a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts and don’t forget to watch Mr. Robot Season Three.