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Cyber
Fire Code
Fire Code
Season 1
Number 4
Writer Matt Whitney
Director Howard Deutch
Original Airdate March 25, 2015
Navigation
Previous Episode: Killer En Route
Next Episode: Crowd Sourced

Fire Code is the fourth episode in Season One of CSI: Cyber.

Synopsis[]

A new code takes advantage of a popular printer's design flaw to allow cyber-arsonists to set fires remotely—and the person responsible is a figure from Nelson's past.

Plot[]

Zero-day - a flaw in software on our personal devices that is unknown and can be hacked.

In an apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, a woman's electronic devices go haywire in the middle of the night—the coffee maker and TV randomly turn on, while a clock randomly cycles through four-digit numbers. Suddenly, as quickly as they all turn on, they revert back to normal, much to the woman's confusion. Before she can head upstairs, she's alerted to another noise. She grabs a knife and opens a door; however, the blaze from a quickly-spreading fire sends her backwards.

Meanwhile, Elijah runs through the streets of Washington chasing after Rusty, a black hat hacker who is also an FBI informant. When finally cornered by Avery and Elijah, Rusty hands over a flash drive, which he says is a "hot new piece of code." In the lab, Krumitz plugs the flash drive into a computer and updates the firmware when prompted. The adjacent printer soon catches fire, much to Krumitz's delight. He explains to the team that the flash drive contains a code hidden inside a firmware update; the code disengages the thermal switch of a printer, which regulates the temperature of an ink fuser to prevent it from overheating. Without the thermal switch, the paper touches the blazing-hot fuser, which causes the paper to ignite and the printer to catch on fire. In other words, someone has figured out how to start a fire through the Internet. Nelson watches the entire demonstration with a look of great concern.

Under interrogation, Rusty says that he traded for the flash drive over the Deep Web; however, he doesn't remember the seller's handle. Raven interrupts and shows Avery a list of recent reports involving electrical fires across the United States. The incident in Louisville stands out, and Avery and Elijah head to the scene.

Elijah pulls the processing chip from the charred printer and sends it to Krumitz to determine whether malicious code was involved. The woman from earlier, Stacie Evers, recounts the night's events to Avery, including the electronics "coming to life." Stacie and her roommate are confused when asked about their Wi-Fi password. Avery explains that a weak password can allow anyone to invade a network and access various devices. She asks the women for a list of anyone who would have the technical skills to pull off a cyber intrusion into the router. The belief is that the person responsible did this on purpose.

Nelson visits friends in Baltimore who go by the hacker names "Icarus" and "Future." They're both under the impression that Nelson works as an I.T. guy at a real estate firm. He excuses himself and goes to use the bathroom, where he retrieves a flash drive that had been taped to the toilet.

Simon unsuccessfully gets the printer company to recall their product, as the lawyers claim user manipulation, not a defect. Krumitz shows him that the firmware upgrade that caused the fire in Louisville doesn't match the one provided by Rusty—in other words, they're different codes. An alteration in the Louisville incident made it possible to track the IP address of the person who hacked into Stacie's Wi-Fi and intruded the router. The target, Donald O'Hare, used a virtual private network (VPN) to mask his identity; however, Krumitz points out that Donald then put his own IP address into the update. He compares it to someone using a ski mask to rob a bank, then handing their driver's license over to the teller. Something isn't adding up.

Donald is arrested at his place of work after he unsuccessfully tries to run. A video of the fire is found on his home computer, and Avery is able to determine from his behavior that he's a pyromaniac compelled to start fires for sexual gratification. However, unlike other arsonists, he's too afraid to do it in person and uses his computer skills to keep a safe distance. Avery then guesses that Donald drove around town looking for open Wi-Fi signals until he found Stacie's apartment. Using a backdoor Trojan he installed on Stacie's computer, he accessed cameras in the computer and smart TV to watch the fire. He then messed with the other devices just to scare Stacie, which was his form of foreplay. Donald is in disbelief when told that his IP address was embedded in the firmware update, and he admits that a user who goes by the name "JU5TU5" (Justice) gave him the code after they met in a fire prevention forum.

Nelson meets with Avery privately and makes a confession—he's the one who wrote the firmware code, as it matches the one provided by Rusty. He explains that after he was arrested, every electronic device was taken from him except the flash drive he recovered earlier. The flash drive contains all of his favorite codes, and the printer exploit is one of them. He says that he used the code to hack into his friends' computers and play pranks; however, he never wrote any codes to start fires. Nelson claims to be unaware as to who else knows about this, but he admits that he shared it on a few forums a long time ago. Anyone could've used the code and expanded it to start the fires. The conversation is interrupted by news reports that show another printer fire occurring at a community college in Atlanta. Since Donald is behind bars, someone else is responsible.

This fire claims a victim, as a janitor ended up trapped in a storage closet with no means of escape. There are four printers in the computer lab, all of them individual points of origin. Avery points out that this fire starter doesn't share the same M.O. as Donald. While Donald wanted to watch the fire burn, this target didn't hang around the scene; furthermore, the computers don't have internal cameras and the security cameras are all hardwired. An office printer in the next room appears to be untouched; however, Krumitz points out that it was out of paper. A melted fuser proves that there was an unsuccessful intrusion. Another IP address is found embedded in the code; however, this one is different from the last one used.

The IP address tracks to a guy named Dave, who runs an electronics store. As it turns out, he was an I.T. professor at the college before he was fired. It's evident that Dave didn't write the code himself, but he refuses to say who gave it to him. Elijah places him under arrest.

Dave was also set up by Justice, as an executable was written into the code to identify the sender. Justice is handpicking who to set up, selecting a black hat known for selling zero-days (Rusty), a deviant pyromaniac (Donald), and a revenge arsonist (Dave). Raven soon shows Avery and Simon a video message sent from Justice to Public Electric, the maker of the printers—it reads "I'm just warming up." The ensuing video shows a masked Justice demanding $10 million in two hours to make the attacks go away; otherwise, the codes will be posted online. Furthermore, he warns that Public Electric owns other electronic devices that are susceptible to being hacked in the same ways. Avery notes that this was his plan all along, describing Justice as a "professional torch"—someone who burns for profit. He wanted the scapegoats to get caught as a proof of concept. She also believes that Justice isn't bluffing; worse yet, there may be more fires regardless of whether or not Public Electric pays the money.

Public Electric agrees to pay the $10 million, which is sent to offshore accounts in five different countries. Meanwhile, Krumitz and Nelson are tasked with determining which other Public Electric devices can be hacked, even if they're unplugged. Nelson is able to start a fire by manipulating a laptop's battery into overheating and exploding, which he says he had written codes for back in the day. After Avery leaves the demonstration, Nelson goes over to his computer and types something.

Avery soon sees Nelson getting on an elevator and leaving the building; calls to his cell phone go unanswered. Krumitz tells her about Nelson typing something at his computer, and she soon finds that he was communicating directly with Justice, instructing him not to touch any money he receives because the Feds are onto him. Nelson has gone to meet Justice at their "spot."

A SWAT team storms the apartment Nelson went to earlier, catching Future and Icarus off-guard; neither one knows where Justice is. Meanwhile, Nelson meets up with "Meta," another old friend of his. Nelson put two and two together, remembering the code that he wrote along with an article he read mentioning that one can blow up a laptop battery. Meta proudly says that the two of them started the project together, only he's the one who finished it. He's ecstatic that their exploitation side hustle just made him $10 million, but Nelson warns him that the Feds will find him. When told that someone died in one of the fires, Meta insists that he's not the bad guy—he just pointed out a security flaw and identified who was responsible. Nelson corrects him, telling him that he is the bad guy, as he did it for fame and fortune, not to protect innocent people.

Attempts to track Nelson are unsuccessful, as both his phone and Tesla are offline. Krumitz discovers that the message Nelson sent was a text from his computer to a registered number. Avery determines that he sent the message from his work computer because he wasn't trying to hide it; he just wanted a head start. She believes that Nelson left behind a digital trail for a reason and is insistent that he hasn't gone rogue.

Back at their meet, Nelson tries to get Meta to turn himself in. Meta, however, says that he knows someone in the Deep Web that can launder the money into the accounts and offers Nelson $2 million. Nelson hands the money back and tries to get Meta to reconsider before it's too late. When Meta refuses, Nelson punches him in the face. Meta, in turn, threatens to ruin Nelson's hacker reputation, but Nelson says he's got a new reputation he's trying to protect. This leads to a chase through the adjacent park; Meta eventually gets the upper hand, hits Nelson a few times, and swipes the flash drive he had secured around his neck. Nelson activates his phone, giving Avery a location as to his whereabouts.

As he's surrounded by the SWAT team, Nelson tells Avery that he put a tracking chip in his flash drive. The team won't have long to find Meta, as he'll kill the signal once he discovers the truth. Nelson believes that his time with the FBI is done, and he's now been labeled as a cyber-snitch. Avery, however, insists that they're a team; however, they're going to need to be on the same page in the future. Meta is soon located and arrested while Nelson looks on.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Will Peltz as Meta
  • Alexie Gilmore as Devon Atwood
  • Adam Shapiro as Rusty
  • Isiah Adams as Icarus
  • Tom Beyer as Dave
  • Carlos E. Campos as Donald O'Hare
  • David Carzell as Future
  • Nadine Nicole as Kate
  • Alison Rood as Stacie Evers

Music[]

  • Sonate Pacifique (ft. Isaac Delusion) by L'Imperatrice

Notes[]

  • Avery and Elijah mention another hacker named Tobin who worked for the FBI, a hire who apparently didn't work out well. Tobin, played by Andrew Lawrence, would appear in the next episode, Crowd Sourced.

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


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