Cybercrime is so common in the news these days. With the hacks of Sony, Bitcoin and JP Morgan, it's clear we need more people in the business of catching cybercriminals. Studies show that popular crime dramas have a direct impact on the number of students that seek degrees in Criminal justice. So it's a great thing that Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the hyper popular CSI brand of crime dramas, has given us CSI Cyber. A show about a cyberpsychologist that tracks down and stops cybercriminals using the power of the internet and a troupe of black-turned-white hat hackers. It's based on the work of real-life Irish cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken. This will definitely give us the rise in number of people looking to chasing cybercriminals as a career. All that would be great, if the show didn't suck so hard.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Patricia Arquette is back in the spotlight after what seemed like forever after Medium ending. I think she's a great actress, and considering she's worth about $24 million it seems like many other people share my opinion. That said, her new show CSI: Cyber is" kinda bad. There are tech experts that actually do the work they pretend at on the show, that reviewed it and took issue with many of the show's aspects. So much for Zuiker's claim on authenticity.
We're only a few episodes into the first season and to be fair, every show has a period where they experiment with different things in order to find what works for them, what will set them apart. "Growing a beard" as it's called, in reference to the vast improvement in quality Star Trek: The Next Generation went through in tandem with Jonathan Frakes's growing out his beard. There's a lot of experimenting going on in these episodes, like the random appearance in episode 3 of Paul Ekman's theory on using micro-expressions to detect deception that were a prominent feature of the show Lie to Me in spite of the fact that Arquette's character would most likely not consider Ekman's work to be reliable. That's nitpicking though.
What is not nitpicking is the issue of the various liberties the show takes with crime fighting procedure. This is not a charge at all unique to CSI Cyber, rather every procedural cop show stretches the truth on everything from the speed of fingerprinting to the science of DNA. Portland State University's Online Criminal Justice Degree program created a helpful infographic on various myths about the Criminal Justice Field.
You may ask, "what's the big deal?" The deal is that shows like this while they increase seekers of this profession they also instill in students some pretty unrealistic expectations. This is bad because once they realize that it's nothing like they thought, they drop the classes, or even worse finish but leave mid-career. Nowhere is this more blatant than in CSI Cyber though.
(image by CSI: Cyber - CBS Studios) DMCA
With their "holodeck"...
...and their holographic screens.
(image by Mordecai Hunter) DMCA
What you'd be actually looking at.
I have to wonder if the dramatization of working in cybercrime actually does more harm than good. I mean, it's great that more people are learning how to prevent data breaches and secure their files from hackers, but maybe it could be done in a way more realistic that doesn't give us a false idea of the work? It's easy to see why people misunderstand the way police operate and the rules that govern them. These things don't really make for good television. It's important though, that those looking to enter into careers in criminal justice and people who may interact with them to know the truth behind these myths. Understanding the way things truly work will help those in law enforcement cooperate with the communities in their charge. All that said, it's really awesome that people are learning through tv to take cybercrime seriously.