Say “Cyber” again—Ars cringes through CSI: Cyber

This is what cyber looks like. (credit: CSI: Cyber / CBS)

There are lots of cringeworthy technology moments on television, especially when the words "hacking" and "cyber" are introduced into the plot. But of all the broadcast and cable networks, CBS is the biggest purveyor of techno-idiocy, proving again and again that none of the producers behind its stable of pseudo-procedural dramas has a clue about how anything on that crazy thing called the Internet works. NCIS set the benchmark with its two-people-on-one-keyboard-to-out-hack-a-hacker scene, but then the network doubled down and launched CSI:Cyber, which returned last night.

The future of Cyber is currently in doubt. CBS has pulled its timeslot to make room for a midseason replacement, so there may well be only a few more opportunities for the latest CSI franchise to cyber-scare network viewers with plots loosely based on something producers read about on Yahoo Answers. OK, to be fair, Cyber's writers are at least occasionally inspired by actual vulnerabilities that have been ripped from the headlines. It's just often these headlines are several years old.

Throughout its run thus far, the show has offered hat-tips to real security researchers. An episode late last year involved a "jackpotting" hack of ATMs at "Barnaby Bank," named for a security researcher who demonstrated that vulnerability—Barnaby Jack. Jack would afterward serve as director of embedded device security research at IOActive until his death in 2013. But the road to entertainment hell is paved with good intentions.

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