Utica College News

How realistic is 'CSI: Cyber'? We asked cybersecurity professor Austen Givens.

A UC expert's take on the new TV series about cyber crimes

The latest CSI spinoff, a cybercrime-themed version appropriately titled CSI: Cyber, starring Patricia Arquette (above), premiered March 4 on CBS. How realistic was the episode’s plot (which involved a malware-infested baby cam and a social network called “FriendAgenda”)? We talked to Austen D. Givens, professor of cybersecurity at Utica College, for some answers:

Q: First things first: Is hacking a baby monitor possible?

A: In theory, yes. You could create some kind of malware to put on any type of computing device, even something like a solar-powered calculator. But the odds of it happening to a baby monitor are fairly remote.

Q: When the CSI team discovers the spy software, one of the characters says it's so cheap and easy to find, "basically anyone with half a brain can use it.” True?Austen Givens, Utica College professor of cybersecurity

A: False. You have to have at least some knowledge of the “dark net” to even know this type of software exists. And to know how to use it requires some pretty sophisticated skills, to say the least.

Q: Spoiler alert: At the end of the show, a Facebook-like social network helps the team crack the case. Do real investigators use Facebook to track down cybercriminals?

A: The answer to this one is yes. Criminal investigators (and spies!) use all social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, to develop information on suspects and targets. It can be easy to piece together a person's history and information by aggregating data from these sources.

Q: Seems like CSI: Cyber could make people more paranoid about the Internet.

A: There is some merit in that if it raises the awareness of cybercrime—awareness is good. But the kind of paranoia it seems to be instilling is a bit ridiculous.

Learn more about Utica College's internationally respected cybersecurity program here.

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