CSI Cyber, which recently aired its season finale, featured Bitcoin as a theme throughout the episode entitled “Bit By Bit.” Filled with crypto mystery, the plot is loosely based on the headlines of a teenage bitcoin trader who murders his roommate.
The cast tries to understand the concept of digital currency, but most of the time the story is better told through the technology itself. Here’s a line, for example, from one of the episode’s victims:
“Ben had the idea for the bitcoin computer. I trusted my son when they implemented it and now my son is dead. How many bitcoins were there? A half million dollars.”
‘Bit by Bit’
CBS provides a synopsis for the show about a cyber-team investigation of a hacker who uses a power outage in Detroit to mask a jewelry store heist and murder. The show starts right off with Daniel Krumitz, a detective played by Charlie Koontz, using his computer to find the hacker.
A massive power outage has occurred in Detroit 36 hours earlier, and the traffic system downtown is disabled. Meanwhile, a hacker opens a dialer vault, but viewers are kept in the dark about what he is stealing. CSI investigators the heist involves jewelry, but lo and behold, the actual thievery involves Bitcoin.
The main detectives use the blockchain as means to find the culprit. Krumitz explains the blockchain’s process and that anyone can find any transaction. He goes further into the topic of holding private keys and suggests that the person holding the keys is likely the killer. Viewers receive a long-winded explanation of how the blockchain ledger records everything. In this scene, Koontz looks as though he has done a little homework. His character says:
“The biggest misconception about Bitcoin is that it’s anonymous. That’s why it’s the preferred currency in the Deep Web. It’s used to fund drug deals, hit men, human trafficking — but it’s not actually that anonymous.”
The ignorance of the jewelry store owners is particularly hilarious. They lock down their computer in a vault, yet forget to secure their Bitcoin holdings with a pass phrase. The technology focused on in most of these shots is the safe. Once the ancient tech is broken into, the newer tech is fully accessible — with absolutely no technological security, not even a simple password.
CSI Cyber shows display a lot of technology, but they typically don’t describe it well. This show is a perfect example. The finale episode provides a tale of how the blockchain could be used in an investigation. While the writers seemed to have some understanding of how blockchain technology works, I wonder what sources they studied before writing the show. A blockchain expert could have improved the plot. Perhaps they should have read Cointelegraph for a solid understanding of crypto. I'd like to invite the entire cast of CSI Cyber to my place for a lesson. Let's have a CryptoParty!
CSI Cyber focuses mainly on Bitcoin for the first time throughout an entire episode. They use a lot of 'buzz' crypto terms in ways that don’t make sense. It reminds me of the Simpson's billboard displaying the word Bitcoin:
Some elements of this CSI story resemble the January murder after which it is modeled. The original headline, “Bitcoin Trader Accused of Murder,” involves a case of a young teenage stock trader whose portfolio included Bitcoin. News outlets at the time gave the impression that Bitcoin was a motivation for the killing, but the crime was not connected to cryptocurrency.
The fairly stimulating episode kept me glued to the TV. The show even contained a Bitcoin bounty hunter. It was particularly enjoyable listening to Koontz and Patricia Arquette engage in “Bitcoiner talk,” which gave me quite a chuckle. I almost expected them to refer to the digital currency as "the Bit-Coin."
I can handle a good CSI Cyber every now and then, and the episode was certainly worth watching, for a Bitcoin enthusiast such as myself. You, however, may be disappointed. Wired describes the show’s poor attempts to connect with its target audience:
"The teenagers of Dawson’s Creek may have been verbally precocious, but the experts on Cyber, which ended its first season last night, often don’t seem to know what they’re talking about, even while they are still talking."
Perhaps the laptops and cell phones featured on CSI should get more air time than the cast? The finale was better than past episodes I've seen. It contained action and elements of surprise, climaxing with the violent Bitcoin bounty hunter going after the burglar. The thief had hidden the money on a digital botnet, so the bounty hunter tortured him for clues. Eventually, federal officials caught the culprit and retrieved the bitcoins.
CSI may have chosen to go the crypto route in order to gain a technical edge and use the sensationalism that surrounds cryptocurrency. The hot topic seemed to give the show more views. A slew of articles came out after it aired, all making fun of the show’s ignorance. I hope the viewers learned something about Bitcoin beyond its use on the Deep Web — at the very least, an understanding of the importance of using basic security for Bitcoin accounts.