Cyberbunker: The Criminal Underworld is the mysterious hacker Netflix series I didn’t know I wanted

(Image credit: Netflix)

The trailer for Netflix's new docuseries Cyberbunker: The Criminal Underground is almost unbearably tense. It begins in the darkest woods, pierced by the lights mounted on mysterious figures' machine guns. There's a flurry of action before the figures are revealed to be armed police and those police are slowly making their way through what appears to be a spooky abandoned bunker. But it soon becomes clear that this bunker is no ordinary bunker. This is...

I won't spoil it. But I do worry that the trailer may be spoiling the show for me. Because while the 'Cyberbunker' referred to in the title may have been a hub of criminal activity, the criminal activity wasn't very visual unlike some of the best Netflix documentaries. By framing it as a kind of real world Money Heist without the boiler suits, I worry that the trailer is creating false expectations of what I suspect won't be particularly action packed. It doesn't need to feel like an action film to be a story worth telling, and this is definitely a story worth telling.

What is the Cyberbunker?

Netflix's series is a true story, and you can read a terrific version of it on The New Yorker's website. It's a story about how a small group of hackers ended up running a criminal empire over the Dark Web from an abandoned bunker, and how they were traced and ultimately captured by Germany's federal paramilitary police – the scary figures you'll see in the trailer. As The New Yorker reports, they seized "four hundred and twelve hard drives, four hundred and three servers, sixty-five USB sticks, sixty-one laptops and computers, fifty-seven phones, piles of paper documents, and about a hundred thousand euros in cash. Some six hundred and fifty officers were involved in the arrests and the raid".

It's fascinating stuff, but the trailer makes me worry that it could fall into the trap of trying to pretend that hacking is visually exciting, a tradition that's been upheld by countless documentaries, movies such as Sandra Bullock movie The Net – which currently has a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and thousands of terrible stock photos showing hooded hackers opening up laptops with hammers and chisels, using laptops dressed in skirt suits with matching balaclavas, or my current favorite, holding a keyboard and pointing it like it's an AK-47. 

I suspect, and I hope, that this show has more in common with The Great Hack, which is also on Netflix. That's a tech-related documentary too, and it's about the dark side of social media and marketing data during the 2016 US presidential election. It's very good – so good, in fact, that it was nominated for an Emmy award, a BAFTA and for the Best Writing award by the International Documentary Association. There aren't many guns in it, but there don't need to be: the story itself is very strong and the documentary gets the point across without trying to turn it into Mission: Impossible. I really hope Cyberbunker follows a similar path.

Cyberbunker: The Criminal Underworld will be available to stream on the world's best streaming service from November 8.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.