In the hacker drama "Mr. Robot," most technology bears the brand of the series' fictional E Corp (known to characters as "Evil Corp"), but one device bore a striking resemblance to Square Inc.'s flagship product.
In the sixth episode of the show's second season, which aired on Aug. 10, a device that looked like an unplugged Square reader was used to steal the data from a hotel employee's key card. Early versions of Square's product came under fire for their similarities to the skimming devices used to clone magstripe cards, and the company added encryption in 2011 following an investment from Visa.
Rather than rewrite the data to a keycard, the character then used a device identified by The Verge as a Magspoof, which sends a wireless signal to the hotel room's door lock to simulate the process of using a magnetic keycard.
Though the card reader appeared for just a few seconds and the character's thumb covered the area where Square's logo would be, the prop was clearly meant to invoke the image of Square's well-known product, which when used properly is plugged into the headphone jack of a smartphone to communicate with Square's app. From this brief cameo, Square joins the ranks of companies like Green Dot, whose products' misuse in the real world became a plot point for a popular TV drama.
In Green Dot's example, Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black" featured the prepaid card issuer's MoneyPak reload card in the show's third season, which was released last year.
At the time, Green Dot had already discontinued the product for its misuse in real-world fraud schemes. The MoneyPak allowed consumers to purchase funds in a store and load them to a prepaid card account by typing a unique code printed on the MoneyPak. Scammers used this to receive funds by asking victims to send them the code, which they could then apply to any account.
In "Orange Is the New Black," the MoneyPak was used to provide an inmate with the equivalent of a cash payment.