CSI's new spin-off, Cyber, stars Oscar nominee Patricia Arquette

CSI: Cyber, the new CSI spin-off, will deal with the emerging threat of computer- and Internet-related crimes.

Creator Anthony Zuiker says it will reflect the recent surge in cyber threats, which can involve anything from hacking and identity theft to terrorism.

"You can't really pick up a newspaper right now without seeing cybercrimes somewhere, so it's a perfect topic for our CSI brand and we're going to educate and entertain at the same time," he tells reporters in Los Angeles.

Whereas the original CSI has forensic investigators going over crime scenes and using science to work out what happened, CSI: Cyber will follow a group of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents headed by a cyber-psychologist named Avery Ryan.

Played by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Patricia Arquette, the character is inspired by real- life cyber-psychology expert Mary Aiken, who has helped Interpol and the White House solve high- tech crimes and will serve as a consultant on the show.

Aiken explains that while CSI-style forensic science involves examining "the physical evidence of the crime scene, forensic psychology is the behavioural evidence - what we call the blood spatter of the mind".

Zuiker says Aiken's expertise will ensure that the show, which co-stars former Dawson's Creek actor James Van Der Beek, keeps up with a fast-changing field that most people are only dimly aware of. This includes the activities in the bowels of the Internet, where cyber-criminals work anonymously.

"Criminals are getting smarter, it's hard to keep up. We're in an era where you cannot react quickly enough because we consume and communicate on electronic devices where everything is permanently recorded," Zuiker says.

"I give this famous example: There's a bank heist where you take a lot of money out of a vault - that's the 1.0 version. The 2.0 version is you're taking three cents out of 25 million accounts every day to where you can't even see it. That's the bank heist of tomorrow.

"Everything on CSI: Cyber is an amplified, 2.0 version of a crime of tomorrow."

For 46-year-old Arquette, who won this year's Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for the film Boyhood (2014) and the 2005 Best Actress Emmy for the supernatural TV drama Medium, making the series has been an educational experience.

What has scared her the most is the realisation that "any device that you have that's connected to a Wi-Fi network can be hacked into - and there are so many of them now".

She is enthusiastically sharing this new knowledge with Harlow, her daughter with her ex-husband, actor Thomas Jane, much to the 11-year-old's dismay.

"I'm like, 'Honey, here's the bad news - your mum works on a show where she's going to come home and tell you all the time, now you can't do that, now you have to turn that off - like location services when you're taking pictures," says Arquette with a smile. "The good news is, she can't get away with that much with me because I'm aware of it."

Alison de Souza

CSI: Cyber debuts on March 5 on AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511).

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