3 min read

For anyone that’s watched Mr. Robot, the name Elliot Alderson will sound familiar. However, we’re not talking about Rami Malek’s hacker alter ego – instead, the name has been adopted as an alias by a real-life white-hat hacker who has been digging into the dark corners of the wild and often insecure web.

Elliot’s real name is Baptiste Robert (whisper it…) – he was kind enough to let us peak beneath the pseudonym, and spoke to us about his work as a cybersecurity researcher and what he sees as the biggest challenges in software security today.


“Elliot Alderson” on cybersecurity, politics, and regulation

In the episode we discuss a huge range of topics, including:

  • Security and global politics
  • Is it evolving the type of politics we have? Is it eroding trust in established institutions?
  • Google’s decision to remove its apps from Huawei devices
  • The role of states and the role of corporations
  • Who is accountable? Who should we trust?
  • Regulation
  • Technological solutions

What Elliot Alderson has to say on the podcast episode…

On Donald Trump’s use of Facebook in the 2016 presidential election:

“We saw that social networks have an impact on elections. Donald Trump was able to win the election because of Facebook – because he was very aggressive on Facebook and able to target a lot of people…” 

On foreign interference in national elections:

“We saw, also, that these tools… have been used by countries… in order to manipulate the elections of another country. So as a technician, as a security researcher, as an infosec professional, you need to ask yourself what is happening – can we do something against that? Can we create some tool? Can we fight this phenomenon?”

How technology professionals and governing institutions should work together:

“We should be together. This is the responsibility of government and countries to find vulnerabilities and to ensure the security of products used by its citizens – but it’s also the responsibility of infosec professionals and we need to work closely with governments to be sure that nobody abuses vulnerabilities out there…”

On teaching the younger generation about privacy and protecting your data online:

“I think government and countries should teach young people the value of personal data… personally, as a dad, this is something I’m trying to teach my kids – and say okay, this website is asking you your personal address, your personal number, but do they need it? …In a lot of cases the answer is quite obvious: no, they don’t need it.”

On Google banning Huawei:

“My issue with the Huawei story and the Huawei ban is that as a user, as a citizen, we are only seeing the consequences. Okay, Google ban Huawei – Huawei is not able to use Google services. But we don’t have the technical information behind that.”

On the the importance of engineering ethics:

“If your boss is coming to you and saying ‘I would like to have an application which is tracking people during their day to day work’ what is your decision? As developers, we need to say ‘no: this is not okay. I will not do this kind of thing’”.

Read next: Doteveryone report claims the absence of ethical frameworks and support mechanisms could lead to a ‘brain drain’ in the U.K. tech industry

Follow Elliot Alderson on Twitter: @fs0c131y

Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.