ISACA Now recently talked to Anthony Zuiker, creator of the global television phenomenon CSI, including CSI: Cyber. Zuiker will present a 2016 CSX North America keynote address at the conference, which takes place in Las Vegas from 17-19 October.

Zuiker is one of the most creative and multifaceted storytellers today.  He also creates multiplatform “digi-novels” through his New York Times best-selling books Level 26, and has written the autobiography Mr. CSI. He will sign books after his presentation.

In Zuiker’s conversation with ISACA Now he revealed, among other things, what top American cyber brass told him during a fact-finding mission, along with his idea to use the media’s influence to make cyber security “cool” among young people and enlarge the ranks of cyber security professionals. He also talks about thwarting a digital 9-11.


ISACA Now: You’ve said you have a love affair with technology and out of that you created Cybergeddon and CSI: Cyber. What kind of research did you do on cyber security and what fascinated you the most?

Anthony Zuiker: First and foremost my passion is crime. Long before I did CSI: Cyber and Cybergeddon I was already researching the issue of cybercrime. This was about 5 to 7 years ago, before cybercrime was constantly in the news. I wanted to learn more so I flew to Washington, D.C. to talk to the cyber experts at the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.

I found that there was already a heightened sense of panic among cyber experts, who described a complete lack of cyber awareness and diligence among the American people. I heard a four-star general say that cyber was the number-one issue he faced and that the criminals and terrorists were 5 years ahead of them. A critical issue at the time and still today is that they are having a hard time getting hackers and others like them to become cyber security professionals. After hearing all of this it was a no brainer to do CSI: Cyber.


ISACA Now: A lot of cyber catastrophes happen in Cybergeddon. What do you think the likelihood is for such events to happen in reality?

Zuiker: There’s no question that a major cyber catastrophe is not only possible, it’s likely going to happen. On the recent 15th anniversary of 9-11, I was taking my children, ages 9 and 13, to school and we passed Pepperdine University where there were 3000+ flags displayed to represent all of the souls lost in 9-11. I told them that a cyber version of that is inevitable.

It saddens me. My kids are studying September 11 in school, and many of those who lived that history will likely live through a cyber 9-11. It is something my children definitely will experience. What form it takes could run the gamut, from all of the traffic lights turning green, to Manhattan being shut down, to the destruction of the homeland. It will represent a new level of warfare.


ISACA Now: What can be done to stop this potential real cybergeddon?

Zuiker: There is no magic fix. The FBI or a similar organization would benefit by using creative storytelling as a recruitment tool to attract young people with computer skills to join the fight against cyber criminals and terrorists by making it cool to defend your country from behind a computer screen. Kids today are computer literate before the age of 10.

The government needs to create cyber training schools to help prepare for, and thwart, potential cyberattacks. Part of the problem is that the pace of change in the cyber world is lightning quick, but bureaucracy moves slowly. So we cannot change this situation overnight. There are things we can all do to help, such as practicing the fundamentals of good cyber security; that’s a given. But with the sophistication of cybercrime moving at an exponential pace, the government has to pass laws to recruit young people to help protect this country. That’s what has to happen.


ISACA Now: What will be the key takeaways from your CSX keynote address in Las Vegas?

Zuiker: I’ll talk about what we’ve discussed today, such as the need for significantly greater cyber security awareness among the public, and what we can do to keep the U.S. safe from digital criminals and terrorists. If you think about how much the cyber world has changed in the past 10 years…2016 is a whole different world compared to 2006. And 10 years from now it will be completely different from today. There need to be major changes if we are going to catch up to criminals and terrorists. The irony is that the terrorists do not want to shut down the Internet, but they do want to get in anonymously and disrupt things.

I’ll also discuss that I believe the American government needs to create white hat viral media content to counter all of the negative, pro-cybercriminal and pro-cyberterrorist propaganda that passes for news in the media. That’s a difficult thing to do because it is a lot cooler to watch a negative, scary video versus a positive white hat effort that contradicts those things. That is why I believe any discussion of cyber security needs to involve the pros and cons of the media. It is a very powerful engagement tool, and there needs to be an effort to produce positive media around cyber security.

(This post originally appeared on the ISACA blog, and can be viewed here)

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