My game regularly sees PCs stealing and disabling cars and I’ve been hand waving a few of the intricacies in the name of fun. However recent events have forced me to look at the rules more closely and here is my interpretation of how to steal a car in 2072.
There are two ways of stealing a car in 2072, either the car thief breaches the physical security of the vehicle or he obtains control of the vehicle via the matrix. All the thief needs to do to compromise the physical security of the car is breach the maglocks controlling the doors and ignition. I won’t go into detail on how to carry this out as it’s a straightforward procedure under the core rules and is preferable to second way of stealing a car – via the matrix.
Stealing a car via the matrix is a complex process in comparison to physically stealing the vehicle. The hacker will be up against the car’s passive defenses and if he’s not careful its active ones as well. The Shadowrun core rules don’t cover the precautions put in place to stop a car from being stolen in detail. Instead, we are left to assume that because a car is a device and has a matrix presence then the rules used for a node security can also be used.The following list details the active and passive security features of a vehicle’s node.
A Unique Access ID
Every matrix node has a unique access ID. This allows the car to connect to the matrix but it also provides security companies with the data required to track a stolen car. A car thief would need to change or disable this ID to avoid the car being retrieved.
The Node Itself
The node will have the standard matrix attributes (Firewall, System, Signal, Response) equal to the car’s device rating. Consequently the node can also run programs like analyze (to detect hacking attempts) and IC to prevent theft. The car would also have a basic alert response configuration (ARC) configured which would terminate illegitimate connections and might launch IC as a further countermeasure.
As an extra layer of security, many manufacturers would also encrypt the car’s node to prevent competitors from reverse engineering the car’s systems. The hacker will need to decrypt the car’s node if it has been encrypted. Alternatively, many service centers should have a service module on hand that can decrypt a car’s node if physically connected. (I would treat this as a decrypt program with a rating equal to the Automotive Mechanic Tool Shop rating.)
In addition to node encryption it is standard practice for cars to run in hidden mode – the car is invisible to other matrix nodes unless the car’s operator chooses to authorize them. The exception to this is GridGuide and GridLink which are enabled by the car’s manufacturer. This would require the hacker to remain within signal range of the car whilst scanning for hidden nodes.
Another point of concern for a thief is the different account levels available on the car. I don’t envision a car would have an admin account but there would be a user and service level accounts (equivalent to a security level account) to connect with. Normal car operations would be handled under the user account and allow an authorized user to perform normal operating procedures (accelerate, brake, etc) and access to data (speedometer, gridguide, etc). Many manufacturers would restrict control to one user account to maintain safety. The Service account (increases the threshold by +3 for hacking attempts) is used for car maintenance and allows access to the car’s diagnostic information, security overrides and system controls. The Service account also allows indirect access to the car’s controls through alterations to the car’s operating parameters.
Stealing a car in 2072
A car without power does not have an active matrix node and can’t be hacked. Instead the thief will need to gain physical access to the car’s ignition to turn the car on. This might require the thief to disable the door locks and break into the ignition using the Maglock rules (SR4A, pg 263.). A hacker attempting to hack an operating car will need to stay within signal range and discover the car’s matrix node before attempting the hack. Once the hack is successful the hacker has the choice of jumping into the car or issuing remote commands.
- 1. Detect Hidden Node (Scan)
- 2. Hack on the Fly /Probing the target (Exploit) or Spoof Command (Spoof)
- 3. Analyze Icon/Node (Analyze)
- 4. Initiate Cryptanalysis (Decrypt)
- 5. Jump In to a Drone/Vehicle/Device (System), or
- 6. Control Device (Command)