Gaining access to a database, hidden file, or programs on someone else’s computer is a process called “hacking.” Characters who are interested in hacking will need the Investigation skill (for finding information) and Knowledge: Computers (for manipulating information). They must also be able to gain access to the computer in question, either by directly accessing it in person or by reaching it through the internet (as long as it is connected in that way). The rules below assume the latter; if accessing the computer in person, the first two steps can be skipped.
The following steps take a hacker into a target computer and back out again. It is assumed that the hacker is attempting to cover his tracks at all times, so no roll will be necessary for stealth. The amount of time it takes to perform activities online is expressed randomly. The hacker makes his Knowledge: Computers roll first, then the duration of the action is determined with a die roll if that roll is successful. Getting a raise on any roll reduces the amount of time an activity requires by 1 round per raise (to a minimum of 1 round).
Step 1: Find Your Target (Investigation). Locating the right IP address is not quick nor easy. For large corporations it might be TN 4, but some hard-to-find sites might be up to TN 8. Roll each round until target is located.
Step 2: Bypass Security (Knowledge: Computers). The hacker must now bypass the target computer network’s ICE (Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics), which can range from a simple password to multiple layers of aggressive artificial intelligence. The amount of time it takes to bypass security is determined randomly by rolling a die (which does not ace). Home computers take d4 rounds, office computers take d6 rounds, government computers and some corporate stations take d8, advanced government networks take d10, and heavily-encrypted corporate networks take d12 or d12+2. A roll of 1 on both the wild die and trait die means the hacker is locked out and will not be able to access that site for some time, and security is alerted (which in some cases might mean the police or even counter-hackers).
If active security is present, the hacker must first be detected with an Investigation check opposed by the hacker’s initial Knowledge: Computers roll. If found, a hacking battle takes place (see Active Security below). This step can take several rounds, one or more for each layer of security.Step 3: Perform Desired Activity (Knowledge: Computers). Now the hacker can begin locating, modifying, erasing, copying, downloading, reprogramming, or whatever activity he desires. Here are some sample activities. Again, a roll of 1 on both the wild and trait die alerts security.
- Find a File: d4 rounds
- Create a “Backdoor” to Bypass Security in the Future: d4 rounds
- Create a False Trail: d4 rounds
- View Security Cameras: 1 round
- Download or Modify file: d6 rounds
- Change Passwords: d4 rounds
- Wipe Hard Drive: d10 rounds
- Fry Computer: d4 rounds, causes 2d6 damage
- Destroy Program: d4 rounds
- Rewrite Program: d12 rounds
- Shut Down Cameras or Alarm: 1 round
- Reprogram Camera or Alarm: d4 rounds
- Reprogram Robot for Remote Control: d6 rounds
- Log Out: 1 round
Hackers can attempt to multitask while they are waiting for another task to complete. As usual, this incurs a -2 penalty for each additional task beyond the first.
Active SecurityActive security is usually a rival hacker or security agent, though it might be an AI program or other source. When a hacker is discovered, the security agent may perform a number of actions in addition to the ones listed above:
- Attack: Zap the hacker’s computer, causing 2d6 electronic damage. In campaigns where hacking is done through direct mind links, like electrodes, this damage goes to the hacker himself. This takes d4 rounds.
- Run a Trace: Pinpont the hacker’s exact location, taking d6 rounds. If the hacker is creating a false trail at the same time, this becomes a tight race!
- Create Firewall: Though it only requires 1 round, this adds d4 to the amount of time it takes to bypass security, which could be enough to buy the security agent time to perform other actions.
- Hide or Destroy Data: This takes d10 rounds, and can severely compromise the quality of information hackers can recover.
- Call for Help: This takes 1 round, but help might take some time to arrive. On-site security guards can arrive in 2d6 rounds, but the police can take 2d6 minutes.