Mr. Robot—cybersecurity by day, hacker by night.

Mr. Robot, the Flaws of Centralized Database.

Mr. Robot is an award-winning show that centers around Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cybersecurity engineer by day and a black-hat hacker by night. Although the show glorifies Alderson’s hacktivist group as vigilantes who aim to erase all consumer debts, Mr. Robot also exposes the flaws of a centralized database. A centralized system is certainly easily managed, for there is only one database to run and operate, though that is its fatal flaw. It is only as safe as its weakest moderator.

A centralized system trusts human operators to observe and fortify its systems. The problem will arise when an unskilled or ill-intentioned operator comes in as a moderator. Through carelessness or deliberation, these operators may expose the system to vulnerabilities or attacks.

In contrast, a decentralized system places trust in other computers or processors across the globe. As long as the groundwork system is safely designed, the “crypto mining” process will have tens or hundreds of other computers verify the information registered to the system. Instead of a single database, a decentralized system creates a ledger spread across countless computers to verify recorded information. Without human input, decentralized systems make no human errors. Registered information and ledgers will be safely kept across computers across the globe while also being transparent to the public at all times.

However, a decentralized system has its challenges. There has been news of the collapse of a decentralized procedure or targeted hacks in efforts to override ledgers with false input. The decentralized system, as removed from human as it can be, still require human to code the groundwork protocols. As the decentralized system is still in an early stage, mistakes are bound to happen, and they will become lessons to other methods to rectify their protocols and avoid the same pitfalls. On the side of attacks to override information, the same attack can be made to a centralized system with much lesser effort. For a centralized system, hackers can penetrate through systems if they know their target’s location or web address. Once a hacker enters the system, they will have total access to the information logged within the system, such as in the Sony Pictures hack in 2014. However, hackers attack a decentralized system and require a large-scale attack on numerous computers across the globe. Even if the hacker can penetrate the system, they can only make changes to the most recent registration instead of the entire database.

Mr. Robot may have been the “Robin Hood” of the centralized age, but as we move closer to an era of globalization and a period where financial institutions and the 1% do not regulate economic circulations anymore. Vigilantes may not be needed, but transparency and accountability may be what we value the most moving forward.