NEWS

Commlinks and Personas

  • 26 Replies
  • 170 Views

Dreamwalker

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 13
« Reply #15 on: <05-24-22/1751:04> »
The lore given in 5e is that brainwaves is one, but not necessarily the only, metric by which the matrix pairs you with your persona.  It literally, and plausibly, could have a metaphysical/Resonance-linked component to this perfect and un-impersonatable identification feature.
But what about turtle users? How would they authenticate or are they entirely a thing of the past?

... if the powers that be and who constructed the matrix had access to this mechanism.

That's the rub.  The Matrix is not completely understood, in-universe.  It's a genie that the corps don't fully control.
Then we better keep it that way. ;)

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4551
« Reply #16 on: <05-24-22/1756:07> »
The lore given in 5e is that brainwaves is one, but not necessarily the only, metric by which the matrix pairs you with your persona.  It literally, and plausibly, could have a metaphysical/Resonance-linked component to this perfect and un-impersonatable identification feature.
But what about turtle users? How would they authenticate or are they entirely a thing of the past?

You can use a commlink without ever going into any matrix user mode (neither AR nor VR).  People with AR vertigo quality, for example, would be the primary example of such "lol look who's physically holding their commlink touching the screen to make a commcall" luddites.  Note that if you're not even IN AR, then you have no persona, and the question of authenticating your not-used persona is moot ;)

Quote
... if the powers that be and who constructed the matrix had access to this mechanism.

That's the rub.  The Matrix is not completely understood, in-universe.  It's a genie that the corps don't fully control.
Then we better keep it that way. ;)

Indeed.  But whatever IT is, is it even worse than the corps?  Let your paranoia flag fly.
« Last Edit: <05-24-22/1801:26> by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

Xenon

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6368
« Reply #17 on: <05-24-22/2344:27> »
Book doesn't really go into details about how authentication and authorization works in Shadowrun (which is probably a good thing, look how much this changed recent years with identity providers and web tokens - technology that we didn't even heard of at all just 15 years ago).

But at least 5th edition was explicit that if you wanted to access the matrix via another device then you first had to reboot both the device you were currently using and the device you wanted to switch to. It was also explicitly explained that matrix ownership of a device was not automatically transferred just because you had physical possession of a device (in fact, to actually steal a device was quite risky, complicated and time-consuming).

That also implied that if you physically stole my my commlink then I would still be its rightful matrix owner, not you. Unless rebooted I would also still use it to access the matrix - I would still be logged into the matrix via the commlink, not you. Since I am still considered connected to the matrix it also seem as if I can still take matrix actions with my persona that is originating on my commlink (even if it physically happen to be in your hand rather than in my back pocket). At least as long as I have some kind of method of interacting with my commlink via wifi (either indirectly by looking at an image link in contacts, glasses or cybereyes and by wearing a VR glove or, more likely, directly by wearing trodes or having an implanted datajack, cyberjack, control rig.... new trodes only cost 70 nuyen).

If I were to look for my commlink (which is the matrix perception matrix action) I would immediately spot its device icon in the matrix (as long as its wireless is still enabled and it is not placed inside a Faraday's cage etc). If I wanted I could even trace its physical location (which is the trace icon matrix action) which would let me track it's exact physical geo-location, in real time. I could also share this location via an ARO (via the Send Message matrix action) to my team mates or the local authorities. If you were to take a matrix action on your own you would still use your own matrix persona that is still running on your own commlink that you used when accessing the matrix, not via mine.

It is not clear if you can actually access the matrix via a commlink that you are not considered to be the legit matrix owner of or not. But if we assume you can (or if we assume that I first spend one minute to legally hand over matrix ownership of the commlink to you or if you first illegally spend hours to successfully convert matrix ownership of my commlink to you) then you would still have to reboot both my commlink (in which case I would get disconnected from the matrix) as well as your own commlink (in which case you would also be disconnected from your commlink). Once both devices are rebooted you could choose to access the matrix via "my" commlink. But when you do you would access the matrix with your matrix persona, not mine. You would not become the matrix owner of my devices. You would still not gain access to my PAN.



This is also true for hosts-they don't recognize the difference between access that came legitimately and access that was hacked. 
I agree that this was the case in SR5 (while the act of using brute force or hack on the fly to place your mark on a host was an illegal action, simply being inside the host while having a mark on it was not). In SR5 you were often expected to not run silent and instead just change your icon and go with the flow. In plain sight (running silent also used to give you a negative dice pool modifier of 2 dice).

In SR6 I am pretty sure this mindset changed. A hacker with hacked access from Brute Force + Enter Host or Probe + Backdoor Entry is in this edition always considered an illegal user or admin if spotted (they are never considered to be legit users or legit admins - which is also the reasoning why even legit actions are opposed by the network while you are using hacked credentials). In SR6 hackers are also always considered to run silent whenever hacking a host (and they no longer get a negative dice pool modifier for running silent).
« Last Edit: <05-24-22/2352:08> by Xenon »

MercilessMing

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
« Reply #18 on: Today at 12:01:44 »
That also implied that if you physically stole my my commlink then I would still be its rightful matrix owner, not you.
Yeah.  Ownership is another matrix topic I try my best to avoid whenever possible.  The canon is so convoluted.  Makes me just want to run away form matrix altogether.  What is the "I" in "I own this device"?  Is this a SIN, or are we getting into handwavy brainwave pattern territory again?

Surely, an "ownership" concept should be like filling out a Product Registry form that links to a legal construct like a SIN or Company, nothing more metaphysical, right?  Isn't it better to root day-to-day concepts in modern analogs so new people who pick up this game can intuit how technology works, and leave the truly weird scifi for specialists like decker and TM mechanics?


MercilessMing

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
« Reply #19 on: Today at 12:04:13 »
Quote
Note that if you're not even IN AR, then you have no persona, and the question of authenticating your not-used persona is moot
  Is this in a book somewhere?

Banshee

  • *
  • Catalyst Demo Team
  • Ace Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 1056
« Reply #20 on: Today at 13:06:30 »
Quote
Note that if you're not even IN AR, then you have no persona, and the question of authenticating your not-used persona is moot
  Is this in a book somewhere?

Not explicitly... but what is explicit is that you only have a persona when accessing the matrix through a device with the proper matrix attributes. So by extension then it can be concluded that if your not fully accessing the matrix (through a minimum of AR) then there is no persona generated.

FWIW ..  in my opinion what makes a persona unique and not device dependent is the biometrics (ie brainwaves, ID scans, etc) while the device creates the form of persona the device does not create the signature of the persona. Which is why the concepts works the way it does in my mind. Also the fact that this is all irrelevant to the game itself is why I never covered and actually argued against including such language in any official way.
« Last Edit: Today at 13:10:47 by Banshee »
Robert "Banshee" Volbrecht
Freelancer & FAQ Committee member
Former RPG Lead Agent
Catalyst Demo Team

Reaver

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6385
  • 60% alcohol 40% asshole...
« Reply #21 on: Today at 13:15:48 »
That also implied that if you physically stole my my commlink then I would still be its rightful matrix owner, not you.
Yeah.  Ownership is another matrix topic I try my best to avoid whenever possible.  The canon is so convoluted.  Makes me just want to run away form matrix altogether.  What is the "I" in "I own this device"?  Is this a SIN, or are we getting into handwavy brainwave pattern territory again?

Surely, an "ownership" concept should be like filling out a Product Registry form that links to a legal construct like a SIN or Company, nothing more metaphysical, right?  Isn't it better to root day-to-day concepts in modern analogs so new people who pick up this game can intuit how technology works, and leave the truly weird scifi for specialists like decker and TM mechanics?

This has been an issue for a long while now (since 4e introduced the concepts of the wireless matrix). And, its never been explained in any great detail - probably because the writers at the time couldn't see a way forward to an explanation.

Case in Point:

To be a person and to legally own something, you need a SIN. Yet, a SIN doesn't seem to play a part in ownership, or if it does, its peripherally to the SIN. But somehow, the Matrix and the "funky, jumbo juice" it runs on just "knows" who owns what even when they don't have a SIN (AKA Runners, and other shadow dwellers). Now its implied that its done through some of meta data (brain wave patterns, Thought factored authentication, Mental check list, Cloud authorization, Rainbows and Unicorn farts) Which makes basically no real sense.... "You're telling me, that when I connect to the matrix, no matter where I am, the System reads my brain, and magically links me to all my accounts round the world in almost no time and can tell the difference between me and the other 7+ BILLION people? Yet, it can't tell if I have a Real SIN or a FAKE SIN"

Yea, sure...

In a security obsessed world of the 2070s+, if such an ownership system was as fool proof as the rules make it out to be (Remember all those "transfer ownership rules?") Then why wouldn't they use this Mental ownership checker to store SINs? 
To which the pedantic answer is "Well, if they did that, then Shadowrunners couldn't exist!" Which is NOT the point! Runners are such a tiny tiny minority that they don't exist statically, and the benefits of the mental authorization of SINs would outweigh the negatives. And really, your argument basically is "Because this would stop illegal activity, it can't be used for SINs". Excuse me??

Yea, this was just not a well thought out game design, which opened more cans of worms then the writers want to admit to. Hence the why this is one of the most asked questions of both 4e and 5e (go look back! LOTS of posts about this over the years.... and the same answers every time)

Now, Meta-wise, it makes sense why these limitations where placed on things, and why certain actions are described as requiring teams of specialists to do  (like making fake SINs), because we don't want the players from transferring ownership of ARES MACROTECHNOLOY to Joe Decker for the shits and giggles of it. Nor do we want Joe Decker draining the bank accounts of random people on the street... Or any of the other thousand of shit disturbing actions a person can think of doing..


In short: The developers painted themselves into a corner, and "Because" is the answer to get themselves out of it..

Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4551
« Reply #22 on: Today at 13:59:13 »
Quote
Note that if you're not even IN AR, then you have no persona, and the question of authenticating your not-used persona is moot
  Is this in a book somewhere?

As Banshee said, not explicitly.  However, per first paragraph of "The Matrix in daily life" pg. 171 SR6, the distinction between AR user mode and using a commlink "turtle style" is made.  Additionally, in numerous places throughout the Matrix chapter it's said that the two ways you can use the matrix is via AR and via one of the VR modes.  Logically, it stands to reason that if you're not using VR and you're not using AR, then by exclusion of any other potential matrix user modes you're not using the matrix.  And if you're not using the matrix at the time, how can you have a persona at that time?


...To be a person and to legally own something, you need a SIN...

You had a lot to say based on this reasoning, but other than "a SIN doesn't seem to play a part in ownership" it's all profoundly incorrect.

Consider that the rules establish none of the following, which would have to be true if a SIN were involved in ownership:
1) SINless people can't have gear/PANs
2) You don't have to say WHICH SIN/Fake SIN you're registering ownership through (as opposed to the example that IS given for Credit Accounts, pg. 272)
3) If your Fake SIN is burned, you'd lose any "owned" gear along with any lifestyles/credit accounts linked to that fake SIN
4) not 6e specific since the CRB didn't have Criminal SINs, but prior editions did (and this discussion is apparently going all the way back to 4e) people with Criminal SINs are not blocked from owning guns and other gear they ARE disallowed from having licenses to own.

Ownership isn't linked to a SIN.  And it never was, to the best of my knowledge, in 4e or 5e either.  Licenses certainly are, but that's very much not the same thing as matrix ownership.

Consider a stealth tag you put on a vehicle.  Clearly, subtlety is a priority since you're bothering to use a stealth tag.  Yet you want to own it, matrix-wise, so that you can trace its icon automatically and not have to engage in an aggravating game of rolling against your own gear running silent (if you can trace a hostile stealth tag, you never needed it in the first place- you could have traced their car itself!).  But surely you're aware that there's the risk of your opposition finding the bug, and accepted that risk or else you never would have placed it.  So, what can they learn if they DO find it?  Well, if you actually had it as part of your PAN then if you spot one device, you spot the network, so you probably didn't do that.  So long as you DIDN'T put your digital name on the device by leaving it in your PAN, all they have is an anonymous device.  They can hack it, they can "steal" it and change ownership away from you, but so long as you didn't include it in your PAN there's no link they can use to identify WHO owns it.  But until such time they DO come to transfer ownership of the bug, they can't remove it from your PAN (if it was in the network to begin with) nor can they add it to theirs (if they wanted to).

Consider a gun you left behind at a crime scene.  You probably DID have that as part of your PAN, so if you're aware you lost it you'll want to sever it from your persona PDQ.  But when Lone Star finds the gun, so long as it's not still in your network they don't have an easy way to trace ownership, per se.  Since it's a gun and almost everywhere requires licensure, they CAN just check the databases to see who holds the license for this gun. NOW SINs come in to play, through tracing licenses.
« Last Edit: Today at 14:01:47 by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

Xenon

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6368
« Reply #23 on: Today at 14:30:40 »
What is the "I" in "I own this device"?  Is this a SIN, or are we getting into handwavy brainwave pattern territory again?
But do we really have to know how tech 50 years from now might be working, in detail? Is that really important for driving the story forward I wonder. What is the worst thing you think will happen if we just accept that it works?

I remember that Hacking in the early 90s was vastly different than how hacking is performed today, just 30 years later in 2022. I can't even start to imagine how hacking might be performed 50 years from now.

I also remember watching the original TRON movie and reading the Sprawl Trilogy back in the early 90s. Being introduced for the first time to alien concepts like cyber cowboys that connected their brains directly some strange world named cyberspace where they would slice through black IC. There were no details on how it worked. Guy that wrote all that stuff were not even tech savvy to begin with. It was all just make belief. Still, I was hooked. For life. High Tech. Low Life. Cyberpunk at its best.

I honestly don't think it would be a good idea for authors to just copy existing proven security techniques (like PIN-code, username + password, fingerprint scanner, etc). Sure, tech nerds (like me) would recognize ourselves and we would be happy about the technical details (at least initially), but risk is it would quickly feel obsolete and out-dated long before next edition would be released and it would probably also open up a can of edge cases that also had to be described and handled (such as identify theft, key loggers, man in the middle attacks, cross site scripting, bait n switch, cookie theft, etc).

And at the end of the day (and I think this is the most important argument) all that extra detail would perhaps also not even be very fun for people that are not working within IT on a daily basis and just want to play a session of Shadowrun.



... to legally own something, you need a SIN.

It does seem as if you need to have a SIN if you wish to apply for a passport, licenses, bank account, join the military, etc., but I am pretty sure having a SIN is not a requirement for accessing the public grid, owning electronic devices or paying for stuff via certified credsticks.



In a security obsessed world of the 2070s+
Not sure the world of 2070 is as security obsessed as you might think it to be (or want it to be, being in the line of work you are in RL).

Generally speaking I think the future were typically a lot more security obsessed in earlier sci-fi. Older sci-fi often had a communistic mindset with strong governments and often featured government controlled secret police and "big brother see you" themes. The movie Gattaca is a good example of this.

With the introduction of cyberpunk the future was (at least in western cyberpunk) instead often portrayed with a hyper capitalistic mindset where corps were often more powerful than small countries, gaps between the top % and the poor masses were bigger than ever and where Big Data was typically gathered by competing commercial companies and where the data was also used mainly for commercial purposes (such as targeted ads).


To which the pedantic answer is "Well, if they did that, then Shadowrunners couldn't exist!" Which is NOT the point! Runners are such a tiny tiny minority that they don't exist statically, and the ...
Impersonation and Social Infiltration are both large parts of the TTRPG Shadowrun setting and lore. The rules as written allow for that. What you are suggesting make sense from a security engineer's point of view, but this game is not about security engineers. The game revolve around professional criminals. In order for professional criminals to operate there simply need to be huge gaps in the security architecture that.


Now, Meta-wise, it makes sense why these limitations where placed on things, and why certain actions are described as requiring teams of specialists to do  (like making fake SINs), because we don't want the players from transferring ownership of ARES MACROTECHNOLOY to Joe Decker for the shits and giggles of it. Nor do we want Joe Decker draining the bank accounts of random people on the street... Or any of the other thousand of shit disturbing actions a person can think of doing..
Perhaps it is more important (valuable) for the authors to make sure the rules prevent all the things you just listed (and that they at the same time allow your players to impersonate and socially infiltrate) than to put time and effort into describing in detail just how matrix ownership is resolved under the surface or the exact technical reasoning why you cannot steal someone else's SIN or some other detailed behind the scenes description of tech that will not be invented for another 50 years.

Xenon

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6368
« Reply #24 on: Today at 14:43:35 »
...just check the databases to see who holds the license for this gun.
I think perhaps that in the world of Shadowrun your license is not connected to a specific gun, but rather act as a blanket permit to possess any firearm (or perhaps a specific class of firearms).
« Last Edit: Today at 14:46:00 by Xenon »

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4551
« Reply #25 on: Today at 15:02:39 »
...just check the databases to see who holds the license for this gun.
I think perhaps that in the world of Shadowrun your license is not connected to a specific gun, but rather act as a blanket permit to possess any firearm (or perhaps a specific class of firearms).

That level of granularity is indeed not specified.  But surely the gun has to be linked to a license, whether it's one license for all your guns or one license per gun.  I can see it being preferable/advantageous for the character to have some guns (apparently) licensed, so that you can present them for examination at checkpoints, and some guns being unlicensed so that they're untraceable.  Going "no license" would be the equivalent of filing off the serial number- it'll never pass any kind of inspection, but at least you're not linked to it, either.
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

MercilessMing

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
« Reply #26 on: Today at 16:01:28 »
Ok, at least I know now ownership lives in the same rule space as personas.  I just have to say it's a shame that in a game about doing crime, with cybernetic gear dedicated to defeating biometrics of all kinds, using social skills to get passwords and steal keys, and expensive tech made for breaking into secure computer systems and liberating their contents, stealing phones and cars is such a hassle and impersonating someone online is damn near impossible. 
The next time Mr Johnson asks my team to steal a prototype, I'm just gonna tell him "Wow are you sure?  You know as soon as it's connected to the matrix, the owner can find it right?  And you have to leave it on all day to get rid of that".  :-P