Netrunning v2

Programming and Netrunning 101 v2


Skills involved

Interface: The ability to apply programs towards the desired goal: to get them running properly, to operate them so that the desired function is performed and to get multiple programs interacting correctly.

Netwise: Internet streetsmarts: where to get things, who to talk to and how, what is important, what is not important, what is the expected return on investment in the e-mails these Nigerian princes keep sending you.

Data Search: The ability to find what you are looking for in the digital sphere. How to use search engines, what forums to check, etc.

Programming: The ability to create new programs and to modify existing ones either to perform different functions or to alter their fingerprint. Knowledge of the various programming languages and the best practices of coding.

VR Graphics: The ability to create icons with impressive visuals. These can awe those who do not have actual knowledge of the way the net functions, but even those who know that the icon has little to do with the actual capabilities of a program usually prefer pleasing visuals.

The DataStreet™

The most common representation of a virtual space is some variant of the DataStreet™ viewer. Each area of the local system is a room, separated from other rooms by security controls represented by doors. Althrough the application of the VR Graphics can give the DataStreet™ any look desired, the (usually) tree-like structure of rooms which lead to other rooms is not commonly altered. If the system does not supply a look the default look of the user’s system is used.

A typical system has one entry point from the Internet with a room containing the publicly available parts of the system, for example the public site of a corporation which is hosted on the system. If no part of the system is public this room is empty. One (or more) doors lead from this entry room to other rooms that contain data and access to programs that are not publicly available. In order for the user to move from one room to the next they need to pass through the security control, the door, that separates the rooms: for example they need to input a valid user name and password. Or they might apply illegal methods and circumvent the security controls.

A room can have multiple levels of access to it depending on which door the user entered the room by. At the most basic the room has only one level of access: once you are in you can do whatever you want. Because this would essentially be a hacker’s paradise, most rooms have at least two levels of access: user and root. Those with user level access are able to interact with the programs and files in the room but can not give access rights to the room or run certain programs. Those with root access do not have these limitations, and might install back doors, alter the programs of the room or even the look of the room itself. Some rooms differentiate even more levels of access: for example a room containing a forum might have three levels of access, guest (read only), member (can post on the forum and edit own posts) and admin (can edit anyone’s posts, ban members, alter the forum program, etc.). Use your imagination. There must always be some route for gaining complete control over every room. Otherwise it would be impossible for the admin to control the system.

Sometimes the admin of the system does not want the door to be immediately obvious. A door can be hidden by someone with admin rights with an INT+Netwise roll. If the room has nothing else besides the door a -5 penalty is applied the roll. If the room is cluttered a bonus is applied to the roll up to +5 for incredibly cluttered rooms running thousands of programs. The difficulty class this roll would have succeeded at is the task difficulty for finding the door. Anyone visiting the room can attempt to discover the door with an INT + Netwise roll.

The Deck

The idea of the deck originated from modern computers and programs having a digital fingerprint that firewalls use to ban software and hardware. Although anyone with half a brain could (and still can) alter the fingerprints and circumvent these locks, doing so took time runners just didn’t have in the middle of a run. To counter this runners started getting multiple different attack programs and secondary computers, just in case they got smacked with a banhammer. Over the years this idea grew and took on a life of its own amongst netrunners: your deck is not just your programs and rigs, it is the grand total of the moves you can make and the power you wield.

To today’s netrunner a deck is far more than extra programs and rigs: it is a way of life. Anything which gives you an edge can be part of your deck: your skills, other equipment, plans, even your buddies. The ability to put together a deck is very much the essence of being a netrunner, and the good ones are always looking for new things to add to their decks.

See Systems, Programs and the netrunner gear section of Gear for the technical side of your deck.

Making a run

A run is a remote attack against a computer system that is executed through a network. Unlike a direct attack, such as with a sledgehammer.

Starting a run

Roll the length of your trace at the start of the run. See The Trace for more information.

Running programs

When a netrunner wishes to handle his or her programs she takes the Use Computer action. Usually no roll is needed if this action is the only action taken during a round. If a roll is needed use TECH+Interface vs TD 15. If they use the computer with a keyboard, VR goggles or other such means they can do one of the following. If they use a cybermodem they can do any number of the following in any order any number of times.

  • Run program
  • Alter program priority
  • Stop program

Run program: In order to get your programs to actually do something you must run them. When you run a program you assign it with a priority and the program takes up the required system resources. The program is now running and will start executing its actions.

Alter program priority: Program priority is used to determine which program goes first if more than one wishes to do something simultaneously. When you alter program priority you can assign a program with a new program priority.

Stop program: You can stop a program manually. Once a program stops running it releases the system resources it used up at the start of the next turn.

Executing functions

While the program is running, each round after all actions have been resolved, it executes minor functions until it encounters a function which it then executes. Only one function of the program is executed each turn. If a program reaches its end it stops running.

If multiple programs are running they execute their functions in order of priority. If an expert system triggers the execution of a function it gets the highest priority. If there is more than one, execute them in order of priority.

Things to watch out for

Firewalls often have tricks besides just trying to keep you from gaining access. Below are some of the most common ones:

Fingerprints and Bans

As stated, modern hardware and software have digital fingerprints. These prints are difficult to mask, which is why firewalls use them to identify programs which they will not permit to be run or systems which they will not permit interactions with. Fingerprints can be altered between the runs, so you don’t usually lose your computer or program for more than just the rest of the run should they get banned. See Programs and Systems for more details on fingerprints and how to modify them.

The Trace

The Length of your Trace determines how precisely the runner’s location can be determined by a system attempting to track them down. At the beginning of each run the netrunner rolls Intelligence+Netwise+possible equipment bonus: this is their total Trace Length.

Trace Length The accuracy with which the runner’s location can be determined
0 The street address at best, exact apartment at worst
5 In that corner of the combat zone
10 Somewhere in Night City metropolitan area
15 Within continental USA, with a definite Californian feeling
20 Somewhere on the northern hemisphere
25 Pretty much anywhere on Earth
30 Almost certainly on Planet Earth. Almost.

If the Trace Length goes down during a run it might be a good idea to stop running in the net and start running in the real world: most corporate Internet Security packages include mercenary rapid response teams whose task is to hunt down and apprehend hackers. These teams are infamous for having killed a great many netrunners who were all “resisting arrest”.

Black Ice

Just because you are the attacker doesn’t mean you are necessarily safe. Some firewalls, which occupy an undefined legal grey area, hack right back at you! Your computer might catch fire or your programs might be deleted, but it is unlikely you will die unless you manage to get stuck in a room with a now burning computer. Make sure you have a firewall.

Program Interactions

When two systems interact with one-another only one interaction can occur at once. This means the systems execute functions one after the other, in order of priority. If one system has nothing to execute the other system executes functions one after the other until both are done.

Under conditions like these, a function can interfere with the function immediately before it, and a function can be interfered with by the function immediately after it.

When a function attempts to interfere with the function of another program both roll Interface. If the interfering program matches or exceeds the roll of the other program, the other program is affected.

Example: A hacker attempts to Gain Access on a small corporate network and a firewall program attempts to Stop [Gain Access]. The hacker has an Intelligence of 8, Interface skill of 4 and the program has a 2 Interface Bonus, for a total of 14. The firewall is well written and has an Interface Bonus of +4 and it is a level 3 Expert System giving it 3*54=19 as the total. The hacker rolls a 6 and the firewall rolls a 4, for totals of 20 (hacker) and 23 (firewall). The firewall has a higher total: the hacker is unable to gain access.

Multiple functions can interfere one after the other, theoretically forever. If this results in a function not being successfully interfered with the code has self corrected and the function is finally executed. When interference “piles up” only the interfering program rolls: it must defeat the previous roll of the opposed program.

Example: the hacker has installed a punk buster buster program and the Stop [Stop [Gain Access]] function of his attack program is executed. Since the firewall has already rolled in the previous example it does not roll again: the earlier result of 23 is used. The hacker’s program has a Interface Bonus of +2, so the hacker has a pool of 14, needing a total of 23 or more to win. The hacker rolls a 9, for a total of 23. The lucky hacker gains access.

Netrunning v2

Edgerunner Kohme Sevain