Many readers of our website regularly ask why hacker’s don’t just erase everyone’s student loan, medical and credit card debt as shown in the hit television series Mr. Robot. However, considering how this data is stored, this is not a very likely scenario. In fact, it may even be impossible.
According to Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle, the stunt highlighted in the show would ruin the economy if it was actually pulled off. Furthermore, it wouldn’t even be possible to achieve this goal to begin with, because the records for each individual are stored across many different servers, and are not centralized in one vulnerable location.
In the world of Mr. Robot, one company holds at least 70% of the entire global consumer credit industry, but this is not how things work in reality.
“Student loans are handled by other, different companies. Car loans. Mortgages. Each market brings new players, who all have their own records you need to wipe,” McArdle explains.
Photo Credit: Mr. Robot – USA Network
So to start, this information is spread across a variety of different companies, and each company has this information stored at a variety of different locations, both online and offline.
According to Business Insider, “It’s also totally unrealistic that a corporation that owns that much of the world’s debt would store their data in only one or two server locations. E Corp stores everything at Steel Mountain, an enormous underground bunker that fscociety targets midway though the season. It’s modeled after the real-life Iron Mountain, which similarly stores huge amounts of sensitive information. Not even the best planned heist would stand a chance of infiltrating either location, especially in the world of “Mr. Robot” where E Corp would have limitless resources to safeguard the facility.”
Hacker. Photo Credit: Fortune
There would be a number of unintended consequences from this type of hack as well. In addition to wiping out debt, a stunt like this could also wipe out all records of ownership in the world, if it was actually possible. This means that any claim that a person might have on a house or a car would be legally erased, leaving no proof of ownership.
McArdle also suggested that average citizens would foot the bill through the high taxes that would result from so much debt being erased.
“Student loans are guaranteed by the government (and now usually made directly by the government). Guess who guarantees the government? That’s right, you, Joe Taxpayer. Congratulations, your student loan just evaporated, and your tax bill just doubled,” McArdle explained.
The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, by a significant margin the world’s largest stock exchange per market capitalization of its listed companies, at US$23.1 trillion as of April 2018. / Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Of course, this argument is not much of a deterrent for the poor working class that doesn’t own any property to begin with and finds themselves in extremely low tax ratings.
It is fair to point out the predatory nature of these debts and to demand change. However, it is important to be informed and realistic about what hackers are actually capable of. Thanks to much of the propaganda that we have been inundated with, people seem to think that hackers are capable of anything, but the truth is that decentralized networks are often not capable of being hacked, especially if some of the information is being stored offline.