As a writer of murder mysteries and suspense, I’m a huge fan of today’s modern-day police procedural shows like Elementary, Bones, Forever, the CSI franchise, and the NCIS franchise. All of the shows are somewhat predictable in that there’s a crime – usually involving a murder or two – and the police and/or detectives assigned to the case are tasked to solve it using their intuitive intelligence and powers of reasoning (Elementary, Forever) or through the use of sophisticated forensic and laboratory equipment and highly-trained personnel (CSI) – in real life usually only readily accessible to the upper echelons of government agencies like the FBI.
The new kid on block in terms of recent television offerings is another addition to the CSI franchise called CSI: Cyber which premiered on March 4, 2015. In the show, Special Agent Avery Ryan is an esteemed Ph.D. behavioral psychologist-turned-cyber shrink who’s in charge of the Cyber Crime Division at FBI in Quantico. Her and her eclectic team of computer experts, ex-black-hat hackers as well as a former U.S. Marine solve Internet-related murders, cyber-theft, hacking, sex offences, blackmail and any other crime deemed to be cyber-related within the FBI’s jurisdiction, usually with its origins traced to the Deep Web or Darknet. For most of us who use Google, Yahoo and Bing for our Internet searching, these terms have little meaning. The Deep Web or “Deepnet”, as it’s also called, is defined as the portion of the World Wide Web content not indexed or accessible by our basic search engine buddies, Google, Yahoo and Bing. Sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it? It gets even more ominous with the Darknet. Brad Chacos, Senior Editor at PC World, defines the Darknet as the “hidden, anonymous underbelly of the searchable web” that’s home to rogues, terrorists and political activists and is accessed only with the help of specially-designed anonymizing software.
What makes the CSI: Cyber especially interesting is that it takes the basic murder concept of “bang, bang, you’re dead” to a whole new level – a cyber level, if you will, giving rise to the concept of the perfect murder. In one episode, a popular printer’s design flaw enabled the introduction of programmable code which, when introduced into the printer’s operating software, caused the printers to self-combust, resulting in a seemingly perfect crime of cyber-arson. Another episode dealt with a bomber who targeted random individuals’ smart phones to set off bombs remotely while yet another episode dealt with hacked baby monitors which resulted in a slew of kidnapped babies being sold off to the highest bidders on the black market. Quite frankly, the concept behind these cyber crimes is ingenious, to say the least.
The current hot topic of technology, the 3-D printer, has also had a starring role on television recently. The beauty of a 3-D printer is that it can make three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. These printers are reportedly being used by many different types of companies for varying tasks ranging from the practical, such as creating prototypes of footwear, to loftier medical research used in the development of a 3-D printed synthetic bone substitute. The sky’s the limit where these machines are concerned. Take a recent episode from NCIS: Los Angeles, where some members of the military were murdered during an ambush in a country overseas. In order to solve the murders, two of the agents went to the embassy where the murders took place and using a special camera, they photographed the four corners of the room where the murders took place and then uploaded the images to a flash drive which were then fed into a 3-D printer which subsequently re-created the crime scene down to the minutest detail – all in 3-D, of course. And let’s not forget that episode on Elementary where the murderer printed his murder weapon – a plastic gun – on a 3-D printer.
Technology has, unfortunately, opened up countless avenues for would-be murderers intent on committing the perfect crime – or cyber crime, as the case may be. For writers like myself, it gives rise to inventive new ways to “off” a hapless victim when your basic “bang, bang!” by gunshot just doesn’t do it anymore.