​Can fiction inform reality – a look into CSI:Cyber

During a very different keynote panel at RSA Conference 2016, RSAC Curator Sandra Toms interviewed “CSI: Cyber” show creator Anthony E. Zuiker, and cast members Charley Koontz (Daniel Krumitz) and Shad Moss (Brody Nelson).

The panel discussed how they develop the show’s plot, how they respond to any industry criticism and what they hope to convey to the average viewer who may not be familiar with the nuts and bolts of information security

With over 200,000 open cyber security jobs open in the US today, that number set to increase ten-fold by 2020. So getting people interested and engaged in defending cybercrime is very important.

Zuiker told the audience that increased acceptance in the media that cybercrime was a real threat. That gave the producers an opportunity to explore “the next generation” of crime on the small screen.

Of course, with TV shows needing to close a story line in 42 minutes, one of the criticisms of the show is that “you can press a button and solve a crime” – with some courts having incorrect expectations of how investigations and enforcement actually take place.

Koontz and Moss clearly enjoy a great rapport both on and off the screen. With Moss’ character being reformed “black hat” – there’s some concern he is glorifying the dark side of hacking. But Zuiker says it’s a reflection of reality with law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, using criminals to support investigations.

With women comprising 60% of the show’s audience, Zuiker says it’s important to ensure the story lines portray reality within the bounds of a good story. So, in the first season, there’s been attention paid to phishing and other everyday threats that affect everyone and not just large organisations.

Moss told the audience that he had been hacked with his credit card accessed illegally with thousands of dollars being spent on the other side of the country. Like many, he learned the “it can’t happen to me” lesson the hard way.

Adding to the story, Zuiker noted he had received email from Jerry Bruckheimer offering him Viagra!

However, he also noted law enforcement agencies have asked him to encourage viewers, through the show, to carry out basic cyber hygiene such as keeping their systems patched.

The impact on recruitment is expected to be high. Before CSI:Las Vegas aired, that city’s police department had just 10 applicants per year for what was then called field services. Today, they receive over 50,000 applications per year to work on CSI.

With upcoming episodes focussing on topics such as what happens to the psyche of online content moderators who are exposed to the worst material people post and a teenager who hacks five major intelligence agencies, the show plans to continue deal with social issues.

As an interesting aside, Toms asked Zuiker about the use of The Who’s music on the shows opening credits. Each airing of the show deliver’s The Who US$17,500.