Crowd Sourced
Crowd Sourced
Season 1
Number 5
Writer Craig O'Neill
Director Eriq La Salle
Original Airdate April 8, 2015
Previous Episode: Fire Code
Next Episode: The Evil Twin

Crowd Sourced is the fifth episode in Season One of CSI: Cyber.


The cyber team searches for a bomber obsessed with exposing truth about technology.


Crowdsourcing- connecting a group of personal devices to perform a specific task.

At a movie theater in Washington, D.C., an usher discovers a bomb hidden under a seat. The bomb is attached to a tablet, which currently lists the number '97' on it. When he hits a button, the tablet starts counting up. The usher is able to make his way outside, getting many to evacuate the premises; however, when the tablet reaches '200,' the bomb explodes.

Six people are dead with 30 injured, numbers that would've been much worse if not for the heroic acts of the usher. Cell phones collected from the witnesses all contain two text messages: a number followed by the message "KABOOM." The numbers on each phone are different. When Elijah finds phones in the theater with numbers under 100, he concludes that the tablet was counting up. Avery deduces that this was "crowdsourcing," where each time the tablet connected to a phone, the number ticked up by one. In other words, the killer used cell phones to detonate the bomb.

Krumitz informs Elijah and Nelson that the target bundled malware with every text that was sent, which wiped the pairing record. Meanwhile, when Elijah and Nelson attempt to reassemble the bomb, they discover that the tablet's hard drive isn't amongst the pieces of shrapnel. Krumitz is ordered to send all recovered media to "the Cave," a large room where crimes can be digitally reconstructed. The hard drive is located in the re-creation; however, photos and video compiled only take them up to the time when the bomb exploded. Since it's known which direction the hard drive would've flown and it wasn't discovered when the area was swept, it's determined that something (or someone) blocked the flight path. They can see that two people were directly in the flight path, and Elijah is able to recover the hard drive from one of the victims in autopsy.

Two of the victims in the blast are Congressional staffers; however, Avery believes they weren't targeted and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Based on the bomb's M.O., nine potential targets are identified from the FBI's database. With other factors included, Avery hones in on a target responsible for previous bombings overseas; however, the target has no name or photo associated with the dossier.

Raven alerts Avery and Simon to a website that shows footage of the usher running with the bomb. The metadata on the site has been scrubbed, making it impossible to know who's behind this. A scrambled voice on the video blames the theater-goers for the bombing, warning that "addiction to technology is going to kill you." The website is already at over 460,000 views, and the target says that a second bomb will explode when the site hits one million. The target is using page views on a website to make the public responsible for the next explosion.

Attempts to hack into the website and pull it down may be unsuccessful, as the firewall is essentially impenetrable. Simon wants to alert the public and have them avoid the site; however, Avery believes that doing so will only pique the public's interest and drive them to view the footage. She adds that such an announcement would also alert the target, which could lead to further repercussions. The only way to stop the attack is to break through the site's firewall, but it must be done quickly—human curiosity puts the team on an unpredictable clock with no way of knowing when the second bomb will explode.

Expectedly, Nelson has a hard time breaking through the firewall, telling Avery that the hardening package is essentially ten firewalls. A username and password is needed to get beyond the main page, something the team obviously doesn't have. Avery recognizes the red viper icon on the login screen and flashes back to a meeting with Tobin, a former hacker-turned-FBI Cyber Division employee. She convinced Tobin to join the FBI, which required him to relinquish all of his secrets. When he unlocked his computer for Avery, she recalls seeing the same red viper logo. Tobin has something to do with these bombings.

Avery visits Tobin in federal prison. He admits to selling the target his hardening software, but says he hasn't talked to the buyer in years. Tobin attempts to make a deal in exchange for more freedom behind bars, but Avery turns the table and threatens to have his protection on the inside transferred to another prison. He gives Avery the address for his site on the Deep Web where he keeps all of his exploits, including the username and password Avery is looking for. Before she leaves, Tobin gives her another message: the website is crawling with malware, so several precautions need to be taken.

Elijah comes up with an idea, instructing Raven to create clones of the website in an effort to divert viewers. The hope is that if the traffic is spread out, it can give the team more time to find the bombs. Raven offers to call the search engines and have the cloned websites bumped up to the top of the results pages.

Nelson discovers that accessing Tobin's website will be difficult, as "even the malware has malware." Furthermore, Tobin encrypted the login screen. Elijah reveals that Tobin was the first hacker Avery tried to convert; however, he double-crossed the team by selling confidential FBI intel to the bad guys they were chasing.

Krumitz is able to rebuild the bomb's hard drive and pull a unique ID number from it. He then uses the number to track the tablet's movement from the theater back to where it was first turned on. Elijah and a SWAT team swarm the address in question. While sweeping the premises, Elijah trips a motion sensor, which prompts another recorded message from the bomber. The voice warns that when he's done, people will "fear their cell phones, fear social media, and fear their crushing addiction." Knowing that his plan has been interfered with, he sets the website's target at 750,000. During the speech, Elijah discovers another bomb and orders the SWAT team to vacate the premises. The bomb goes off, injuring one SWAT member in the process.

The laptop used on the most recent bombing leads to a dead end, as the hard drive was wiped. Avery points out that they still have one more option—Tobin. They know he's playing games, but they need to play along in order to get the encryption key to get past the login screen. She recalls her earlier conversation with Tobin and figures out that he wants to spend quality time with his replacement at the FBI—Nelson. At the prison, the two hackers "bond" over mutual acquaintances.

Tobin gives Avery the encryption key in a text file, which Krumitz enters back in the lab. Krumitz gets access, but before he bring the site down, Nelson notices some lines of a code. The code is a dead-man's switch, which will trigger the bomb if the human operator is incapacitated. If any lines of code are altered in any way, the bomb will detonate. Nelson notices that new lines of code were entered four hours ago, which is when the target lowered the website view count down to 750,000. Since the target didn't think the hardening software would be unlocked, he left his IP address behind.

The IP address traces to Miles Jensen. Elijah and a SWAT team storm his apartment, which is full of pipe bombs and bomb-making paraphernalia. Miles, who is holding a detonator, rants that people have to know the truth—they're addicted to technology and social media. He denies Elijah's request to put the detonator down and reveal where the bomb is, adding that it's "too late." Just as Miles is about to activate the detonator, Elijah shoots him dead. He relays this to Avery, who informs him that the website is approaching 700,000 views.

Krumitz and Nelson use Internet Chat Relay (IRC) to determine how the website triggers the explosion. Put simply, an IRC is a private message service that allows indirect communication; this way, they can indirectly communicate with the bomb and find its location. Unfortunately, a password is needed, and the only person who knew it is dead. Nelson discovers that the encryption coding at the end of the IRC is in the shape of a viper—Tobin was the one who wrote it, and he likely sold it to the bomber when he sold the hardening software.

Against Simon's wishes, Avery and Nelson head back to the prison to speak with Tobin again. After getting his wish granted (access to the prison library), he provides Avery with the password: "AveryRyan." Suddenly, his asthma inhaler runs out and he struggles to breathe. Instead of letting Tobin die, Avery gets the guards to get him another inhaler. Tobin seems grateful that he was allowed to live, but Avery replies that they may still need him.

With the IRC channel open, the last three cell towers the bomb's destination tablet connected to are identified. Using signal strength, Krumitz determines that the bomb is somewhere within a one square mile radius. Time is running out, as the website has hit 725,000 views. Knowing that Miles hated technology and wanted to kill as many people as possible, the team scours the search radius for events that might be happening. They find that a club is cohosting a concert that night with a cellular company. This has to be the target, as it's a large crowd with lots of cell phones. Avery deduces that the adjusting the trigger to 750,000 wasn't arbitrary, as Miles wanted to target this concert.

Elijah and Krumitz head to the club. From back in the lab, Avery points out that the target's goal was to have the explosion recorded on people's cell phones. Since all phones would typically be pointed at the stage, she advises Elijah to start looking there. Sure enough, he finds the bomb under the stage; it's armed with another message that reads "KABOOM!" It appears to be three times the size of the bomb that went off outside the theater. Knowing that the bomb squad won't be able to respond in time, Elijah brings it out of the club and into his SUV. Krumitz gets in the passenger's seat and is tasked with trying to disarm it while Elijah weaves in and out of traffic, trying to get to an open space devoid of people. Meanwhile, 735,000 people have viewed the website.

Nelson relays an exploit he saw on Tobin's website that turns off cell phone ringers. The hope is that by updating the code and adjusting it to the tablet, the ringer can be turned off, preventing the bomb from detonating. Unfortunately, this plan is unsuccessful. The page views suddenly start increasing rapidly; someone DDoS'd the site, flooding the server with traffic. Avery comes up with another plan to kill the tablet's battery by wiring it to the car's starter, as an SUV's engine takes a tremendous amount of electricity to turn over. Elijah is able to do this just as the page views hit 750,000, preventing the bomb from exploding. Everyone makes it out alive.

Avery flashes back to the moment she had Tobin arrested on counts of conspiracy, espionage, and theft for selling FBI secrets to criminals on the Deep Web. In the present, she commends Tobin's successor, Nelson, on a job well done on the case. Nelson questions why Tobin was so hung up on getting library access, and Avery reveals that he was going to use the router in the librarian's desk to dump his Deep Web exploits onto the mainframe. The exploits were on the laptop Nelson brought in, and Tobin was going to use a near field communication device (NFC) to get them off. He needed to create a diversion, which he did by faking an asthma attack; in the process, he left his NFC-embedded inhaler right next to the laptop.

Now under constant supervision in prison with his freedoms revoked, Tobin gets a message from Avery in binary code that translates to "GOODBYE."


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Andrew Lawrence as Tobin
  • Shelley Robertson as Marie Carter
  • Nathan Sutton as Miles Jensen
  • Rane Jameson as Josh
  • Henry LeBlanc as Warden
  • Justin H. Min as College Kid
  • Brandon Morales as Guard
  • Joel Steingold as Man


  • Tobin, played by Andrew Lawrence, was first mentioned in the previous episode, Fire Code.

See Also[]

CSI:Cyber Season 1
Kidnapping 2.0CMND:\CrashKiller En RouteFire CodeCrowd SourcedThe Evil TwinURL, InterruptedSelfie 2.0L0m1sClick Your PoisonGhost in the MachineBit by BitFamily Secrets