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Cyber
The Walking Dead
CSI CYBER THE WALKING DEAD
Season 2
Number 13
Writer Andrew Karlsruher,
Scotty McKnight,
Craig O'Neill
Director Frederick E.O. Toye
Original Airdate February 14, 2016
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Previous Episode: Going Viral
Next Episode: Fit-and-Run

The Walking Dead is the thirteenth episode in Season Two of CSI: Cyber.

Synopsis[]

The Cyber team tries to track down the hacker who digitally "killed" Avery's ex-husband.

Plot[]

Social engineering - manipulating computer users to reveal sensitive information to use in a hack.

Avery's ex-husband, Andrew Michaels, drives along a dark road in an area where he has no cell service. He happens upon a man roughing up a woman in the middle of the road and threatens to call the police. The man gets in his car and drives away, leaving Andrew to care for the woman and offer her a ride to her destination.

Two weeks later, Avery gets call from Andrew's life insurance company and is informed that he passed away. As she grieves and laments what could've been, she's told that someone claiming to be Andrew called the FBI and is being detained at JFK Airport in New York.

Andrew is alive and well, and he explains to Avery that he was on a business trip overseas. When he arrived home and tried to go through customs, he was informed that his passport was cancelled because he was declared deceased. Andrew is released into FBI custody.

At headquarters, Russell informs Andrew that according to the state of Connecticut, he's officially deceased. Not only is the death certificate real, a lot of personal information has been filled out, including Andrew's date of birth and Social Security number. Russell informs Avery that Andrew isn't the only victim; someone found a way to hack into the electronic death registration system and has "digitally murdered" over 200 people. This is worse than just a stolen identity, as there's no clear way for someone to come back from the dead.

Nelson finds a backdoor on Andrew's laptop that gave the hacker access to everything, including Andrew's credentials and his personal information. There's nothing that traces back to a physical address, as the hacker used a string of proxy servers to remain anonymous. It's determined that the hacker installed the backdoor by using a USB drive, which means they had physical access to Andrew's laptop. Part of the code used traces back to Stella Kaine, a small-time "hacker-for-hire" Krumitz remembers busting five years ago.

Stella is seen in a club bumping into a man and attempting to slip him a flash drive. Before she can do so, Krumitz arrives with some officers and arrests on the spot. It's found that the flash drive in her possession is the same one used to install the backdoor on Andrew's laptop. Krumitz discovers that Stella is a digital assassin for hire; she has dossiers on every person she's "killed," which totals more than 75 people over the past year. The team has stumbled onto an entirely new exploit; however, they're so far behind the hack, they have no way of knowing how digital murder could play out in the real world.

The consequences of digital murder rear their ugly head in a Philadelphia courtroom. Rafael Pintero, on trial for murder, is released on bail because two witnesses who are supposed to testify against him are ineligible to do so; they're deceased according to their death certificates, even though they're standing in the courtroom. The two witnesses are murdered just hours after Rafael is released, while a third witness has fled after hearing what has happened.

The prosecutor in the case believes that this is a cyber crime, as the only reason Rafael received bail was because someone hacked into the electronic death registration system and digitally killed the witnesses. Since death certificates trump all other forms of identification, the witnesses weren't allowed to testify. The hacker is responsible for putting Rafael back on the street, and the fear is that they could also do the same thing in court cases all over the country. Stella is ruled out as the hacker responsible; not only were the witnesses not on her "murder list," their death certificates were submitted after she was arrested.

When questioned, Stella denies her involvement and points out that the hacker is inexperienced—they marked off "burial" on the death certificate and provided the address of the cemetery. If someone were to dig up the grave and find no body, it would call the whole document into question. Stella notes that cremation would be the easiest way to make any trace of the body disappear. With the team getting no closer to finding the hacker responsible, Stella realizes she has the upper hand. She's able to convince Avery to drop all charges against her in exchange for her helping in the case. Avery realizes that keeping felons behind bars is more important than Stella "killing" civilians.

Andrew recognizes as Stella as the woman he helped earlier, though she looks rather different. He recalls that he helped Stella into his car, leaving her alone with his laptop for just a few moments—enough time for her to install the backdoor via flash drive. Andrew isn't able to remember much about the guy Stella was with. Based on a wire transfer to Stella's account, the man who "killed" Andrew is identified as a Dennis Booker. Andrew informs Avery that he's re-marrying; his new bride is Dennis' ex-wife. Dennis' plan has worked, as Andrew's application for a marriage license was rejected.

Stella explains to the team how a digital assassin operates. After first being paid for their services, they open a blank death certificate and enter the victim's personal information, which was obtained by hacking into that person's devices. The most important part of the form is the cause of death, which is typically listed as a heart attack or cancer—anything that wouldn't trigger a police investigation. While the credentials of the doctor who signed off on the death certificate would need to be confirmed, Stella shows that a hacker only needs a medical license number and the address of the practice to forge a doctor's account. The hacker would then use new doctors to keep the police off the scent.

The team realizes that if the target is following those steps, then they're probably installing backdoors on the witnesses' devices. If they can find the hacker, they can use his backdoor to locate the third witness and bring him into custody before Rafael Pintero can get to him. When Krumitz uncovers a mistake the hacker made, a physical address is located.

Elijah and his SWAT team storm an abandoned apartment; there's evidence that the hacker was squatting there, but left after hacking the first two witnesses. Russell observes a plant that has grown into the building from the outside. He notes a group of dead leaves amongst others that are living and cites a theory of his that links Wi-Fi signals with decaying plants. Sure enough, when the wall behind the dead leaves is broken down, a router is found hidden inside. Krumitz pulls the Internet traffic history off the router logs and finds one site of interest—the East Cambridge University admissions department, the same site Stella was arrested for hacking into years ago. Stella has apparently been hiding information from the team.

Under interrogation, Stella once again says she's not involved with the witness hack. Upon being shown the router that has connections to her admissions hack, she claims to know who's responsible—her partner. She explains that while at one of her post-college jobs, she frequented a site dedicated to IRC hacker channels. There, she befriended someone who went by the the handle "Reaper32" and they came up with the idea for the admissions hack. They also threw around ideas about digitally killing someone, but Stella was arrested before they could act on it. She claims that she hasn't had contact with Reaper since then, but recalls that he started acting crazy, ranting about ways to make more money by killing cops and freeing criminals.

It's discovered that four months ago, Reaper posted a message in a black hat forum advertising his services. When someone expressed interest, he would send them a link—his Deep Web site. The site shows that he's a cyber hitman for criminals; for a large fee, he's offering to digitally kill cops, lawyers, or witnesses. Since the IP address is bogus and Reaper doesn't reveal anything about himself, Avery gets the idea to "use the site as it was intended." Nelson clicks a link, which shows that the person who hires Reaper must uploaded a video of themselves. This person must provide their name, the name of the intended victim, and an explanation for why they want the victim dead. If Reaper takes the case, he responds to the video message and arranges an in-person pick up of his fee.

Elijah volunteers to hire Reaper and set up a sting; however, the fear is that Reaper will have a way of weeding out undercover agents. Avery believes they need a civilian who has a compelling story that Reaper just can't resist. She has Andrew post a video; in it, he pleads for his life back and offers $33,000 to have it fully restored. The plan works, as Reaper reaches out with instructions on where to meet in Philadelphia.

Stella is released from custody, though her devices stay behind as evidence. When she leaves the premises, Krumitz looks around and starts seeing clues that tie to the story Stella told him earlier about her post-college job and meeting Reaper online. Every detail she mentioned was pulled from various objects in the room, such as the name on the router and an emblem on a flagpole (a la Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects).

As he waits with his duffel bag full of money, Andrew is approached by a man assumed to be Reaper. When the exchange takes place, Elijah and his SWAT team swarm in and surround Reaper at gunpoint; however, the man claims to only be the "money guy." The man attempts to take Andrew as a hostage, but Andrew knocks him to the ground, allowing Elijah to arrest him.

Krumitz calls Elijah and relays his discovery; when shown a video of the man being detained, Krumitz recalls seeing him at the club where Stella was arrested (he was the guy Stella "accidentally" bumped into). He realizes that Stella's mark (the third witness) was the DJ at the club; the guy Elijah just arrested was her lackey, who was also with her the night she hacked Andrew.

Krumitz informs the team that Stella is the black hat they've been after. She has two sites: one for digitally killing civilians and one for digitally killing law enforcement. The third witness (the DJ) was never killed because she was arrested before she could finish the job. Though Stella was already in custody when the death certificates were filed, time-release software was found on her tablet enabling her to automatically send the certificates at any time. It's quite possible she set the timer to submit the certificates the night before the witnesses testified. Avery tries to locate Stella, but is informed that she left the building and has vanished.

In her haste, however, Stella made a mistake, swiping her credit card to purchase a bus ticket out of town. The team finds her at the bus station and arrests her. Since Stella is Reaper, her immunity deal is voided. Avery informs her that her hacks resulted in two real-world homicides; she's looking at two counts of felony murder, which will put her behind bars for at least 25 years. Meanwhile, Stella's lackey gave up Rafael Pintero's lawyer, who was holding Rafael at his house. The team has taken down two major criminals.

Avery informs Andrew that the process has started on "bringing him back to life." As for Dennis Booker, the local police have been informed of what he did, and Avery ensures her ex-husband that Dennis won't be bothering him anymore.

Cast[]

Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Brent Sexton as Andrew Michaels
  • Kyle Schmid as Reaper
  • Kelly Osbourne as Stella Kaine
  • Krizia Bajos as Prosecutor Shaw
  • Jeff Bowser as Customs Agent
  • Adam Lieberman as Alton Shepard
  • Anzu Lawson as Judge Loring
  • Kimberly Connolly as Molly Vincent
  • Matty Daniell as Club DJ
  • Mary-Kate Fitzpatrick as Club Girl
  • Carlos Lopez Jr. as SWAT Guy

Episode Title[]

  • The episode title is likely a play on the AMC show of the same name.

Music[]

  • Bang It To the Curb by Far East Movement & Sidney Samson

Trivia[]

  • Kelly Osbourne, who played Stella Kaine, is the daughter of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Both Ozzy (Skin in the Game, Season 13) and Sharon (Dead Rails, Season 15) appeared in episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
  • Upon realizing he was duped by Stella, Krumitz yells out "Keyser Söze!" This is referencing the 1995 movie The Usual Suspects. (SPOILER ALERT!) In the movie, Roger "Verbal" Kint, played by Kevin Spacey, told the police the story of Keyser Söze, an infamous crime lord. After he was released, the police realized that "Verbal" improvised the entire story by piecing details together from various objects in the room where he was being questioned, much like Stella did with Krumitz. Whether or not "Verbal" and Keyser Söze were the same person is up to the viewer.

See Also[]

CSI:Cyber Season 2
Why-FiHeart MeBrown Eyes, Blue EyesRed CroneHack E.R.Gone in 6 SecondsCorrupted MemoryPythoniWitnessShades of Grey404: Flight Not FoundGoing ViralThe Walking DeadFit-and-RunPython's Revenge5 Deadly SinsFlash SquadLegacy


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