NEWS

Connected to the Matrix?

  • 19 Replies
  • 1618 Views

Mechanized82

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 5
« on: <10-11-19/0846:59> »
First off, I'm new here so hello, an also new to the Shadowrun world so still getting my bearings here but I have a question and I wanted to get some opinions.

I just got into the Matrix section and dont understand why corporate servers are connected to the matrix?  What is the benefit?  The risk is huge... they are hackable.  I could see certain parts of the corp being connected to the matrix... those operated by employees who need instant access to information around the world.  but building management systems and important files, wouldn't those just be kept off the matrix? 

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4337
« Reply #1 on: <10-11-19/0853:53> »
Why not just go completely without computers and use paper and filing cabinets for everything?

Sorry, I don't mean to be snarky :)  Yeah there are vulnerabilities, but they're more than offset by the advantages.  Like what?  Like your various departments around the world being able to communicate with each other... like being able to pay your employees without handing them a paper check... like having a telecom infrastructure that is compatible with the rest of the world... like having your customers be able to contact you digitally...


Imagine a company in the real world trying to operate without telephones, email, or a web presence...

Now, perhaps more to your point, there ARE "offline" Hosts that cannot be remotely accessed.  Or can only be remotely accessed via certain predetermined periods, kind of like a time safe.  Those are good for really sensitive stuff like discrete research projects... but not so good for mundane business administration.  Or for about 95% of what a corporation does.  Because again, being offline means if the rest of the Matrix can't reach you, you can't reach the rest of the Matrix, either.  Secrecy REALLY needs to be more important than everything else.  Because think how much of a liability it is for your research project if you can't call up any resources... not even wikipedia.
« Last Edit: <10-11-19/0859:52> 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.

Mechanized82

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 5
« Reply #2 on: <10-11-19/0923:24> »
Sounds like I'm on the right track, mostly.  I get the mundane stuff wanting to be connected, makes total sense.  How about security systems?  Connected to the matrix I suppose if an alert goes off then authorities are instantly notified where if the system is stand alone then an employee would need to call authorities.  Am I right in thinking that between these two scenarios a small business would choose to be connected to the matrix where a large corp might just keep their security systems stand alone (only hackable from inside) because it sounds like they have the manpower to handle their own breeches? 

Either way I guess it's not set in stone that every single computer in the world is on the matrix then? 

Michael Chandra

  • *
  • Catalyst Demo Team
  • Prime Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 9742
  • Question-slicing ninja
« Reply #3 on: <10-11-19/0926:45> »
The bigger your site, the more likely your employees have to interact with the outside. So almost everything will be online. And as for security systems: Most places cannot afford a spider, so one spider covers multiple locations, just following up on alarms and doing the occasional patrol.

Now the core systems, with the secret data the Johnson needs you to obtain? That isn't public, it's either in a private Host that requires physical location, or on a commlink someone locks up in a desk every day.
How am I not part of the forum?? O_O I am both active and angry!

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4337
« Reply #4 on: <10-11-19/0931:43> »
if the motion sensor can't tell anyone it detected motion, what's the point?  So, yes, security systems would almost universally be online as well.

Now that being said, not everything online has to be wirelessly online.  Security devices are a case in point: maybe this is worth the extra bother and expense of wiring cables throughout the building so that your security devices don't use wireless signals to communicate with the controlling Host. However, almost assuredly, the Host is still online.  It'd have to be some very odd extenuating circumstances that you don't want your security host being able to talk to the rest of the corp, or to be able to call local emergency services, or etc.

Now a middle ground between the expense of hard-wiring and not trying to hide your devices/hosts entirely (while still benefitting from being able to interact with the rest of the corp/world) is to run silent.  It's fully online, but you're immune to hacking... until your wireless signals are "spotted" by potential hackers.  And if you've got a good host with a good sleaze attribute, your network can be much more securely hidden than your typical hacker can be...
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.

Beta

  • *
  • Ace Runner
  • ****
  • Posts: 1837
  • SR1 player, SR5 GM@FtF & player@PbP
« Reply #5 on: <10-11-19/0938:50> »
Also the computing infrastructure is actually highly distributed, with most things built to sharing data and processing power with other nearby devices.  This was actually a deliberate design decision, as I understand it, as experience had shown that very bad things could happen when a sophisticated AI got control of high end, fully integrated, computer systems (including Crash 2.0).  The diffused computer/data model had the triplicate benefit of being cheaper to implement, more convenient and faster to implement, and putting some inherent limits on AI power.

(I don't claim that this necessarily makes total sense, but as I understand it that is a chunk of the in-universe logic for why things were built that way after Crash 2.0.  Do realize that the need to get a new matrix up and running very-very-very quickly made the cost and speed/convenience factor very important parts of it all)
Tipperman  --
speechthoughtmatrix

ZeroSum

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 401
« Reply #6 on: <10-11-19/0945:37> »
@Stainless Steel Devil Rat touches on an important point here; cost.

Corporations are all about the bottom line, and in Shadowrun pretty much everything in society is wireless; the can you're drinking from has wireless RFID tags in it so that it can show you targeted ads for the other products sold by the vendor while you're enjoying your favourite carbonated beverage, your coffee maker is connected to the Matrix to that it can predict when you'll wake up by communicating with your wireless biomonitor in order to have that steamin' hot cup of soycaf ready when you walk into the kitchen, and so on and so forth ad nauseum.

Consider then, that running fiberoptic cables through concrete walls and rock and dirt ground is WAY more expensive than simply putting a camera on a pole and hooking it up to the Matrix. If you're a mid to large size corporation you can afford expensive hosts that protect your devices, right? And the megacorps controlling keep implementing security protocols to keep all the bad hackers out, right? Because they surely wouldn't sell you stuff they knew could easily be compromised, right?

Sarcasm aside (and that is an in-world explanation, not directed at anyone here by the way), the Matrix revolutionized the way the world works. If you go back just 50 years in our world and talked to people about the basic premise of the internet, they would probably have the same questions as you. "Surely, this is insecure and ripe for exploitation!?"

Well, yes. But the damage inflicted by the minority is so outweighed by the net benefit from a wireless network, and, most importantly, the corps operate shadowrunners as much as, if not more, than anyone. It is directly against their own interests to keep everything offline, because the corps needs to have an ability to infiltrate, sabotage, and/or otherwise subvert the security of their opponents as they need to secure their own sites and systems.

Think of the Matrix as a form of a symbiotic relationship; all sides gain something in the exchange.

penllawen

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 803
  • Let's go. In and out. Twenty minute milk run.
« Reply #7 on: <10-11-19/1007:53> »
Corporations are all about the bottom line
This. I go one step further at my table: a recurring theme is that corps are penny-wise but pound-foolish. They have enough money, influence, and power to make the typical Shadowrun near-impossible, if they really went for it. But a combination of ruthless internal cost-cutting, short-sighted thinking, and constant internecine conflicts between managers and departments creates the cracks my players can find, lever open, and dance through.

Mechanized82

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 5
« Reply #8 on: <10-11-19/1018:51> »
if the motion sensor can't tell anyone it detected motion, what's the point? 

I'm probably using terminology incorrectly in this thread which can be confusing so I apologize but when I mean offline I just mean not connected to the outside world.  In a security system disconnected from the outside world the motion sensor still alerts security and that person acts however the corp wants them to act.  And because that motion sensor isn't connected to the outside it couldn't be hacked by some kid 2000 miles away, it needs to be hacked from a terminal on site.  The building essentially having it's own separate matrix I guess? 

@Stainless Steel Devil Rat touches on an important point here; cost.

Consider then, that running fiberoptic cables through concrete walls and rock and dirt ground is WAY more expensive than simply putting a camera on a pole and hooking it up to the Matrix.

I can understand this to an extent. running cables throughout a building can be expensive up front but then that system is now secure from the outside world.  That wireless camera you mention... the upfront cost is nothing yet the cost to keep the system secure from outside threats has to be pretty large.  And in the end, when it comes down to it, its still exploitable from your couch where is a stand alone system heavily guarded in the physical world and only accessible in person is much harder to infiltrate. 

I guess some of it just makes me think of the U.S. government putting all their military secrets in an online database waiting to be hacked.  That would just be absurd.  That stuff is in stand alone servers not connected to the internet hidden in underground bunkers guarded by armed personnel.

ZeroSum

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 401
« Reply #9 on: <10-11-19/1030:36> »
I guess some of it just makes me think of the U.S. government putting all their military secrets in an online database waiting to be hacked.  That would just be absurd.  That stuff is in stand alone servers not connected to the internet hidden in underground bunkers guarded by armed personnel.
Some degree of logical disassociation is required to make Shadowrun work. I think the key thing to remember is that in-universe, the benefits of keeping all your stuff connected outweigh the downsides.

Unlike our modern day reality, technology in Shadowrun actually performs objectively better when connected to the Matrix.

If you're trying to apply real world logic to the Matrix, remember that it is at it's core effectively a mass hallucination and relies on tech that to us might as well be magic.

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4337
« Reply #10 on: <10-11-19/1049:39> »
I guess some of it just makes me think of the U.S. government putting all their military secrets in an online database waiting to be hacked.  That would just be absurd. 

That's pretty much exactly what IS done.  Military secrets aren't doing the military any good if they're locked away in a vault with no access to the outside world.

Quote
That stuff is in stand alone servers not connected to the internet hidden in underground bunkers guarded by armed personnel.

I don't know what your background is; you have no reason to believe me when I say I have a deep real-world background on this topic.

So lets talk purely about Shadowrun: You haven't mentioned which edition you're talking about- I've been presuming Sixth since that's the newly current one.  In this new edition, the megacorps have finally and formally gotten rid of the Grid mechanic.  Private grids, or "mini-matrixes" were a thing ever since 1st edition but they're gone now... the corps have agreed it's better for everyone if everything is fully integrated. This is the afore-mentioned "penny-wise, pound-foolish" mentality corps are so prone to having.  Going back to real-world analogies: simply IS no distinction between NIPRNETs and SIPRNETs anymore (not that there really is a meaningful difference between them, anyway...)
« Last Edit: <10-11-19/1052:55> 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.

Mechanized82

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 5
« Reply #11 on: <10-11-19/1134:40> »
That's pretty much exactly what IS done.  Military secrets aren't doing the military any good if they're locked away in a vault with no access to the outside world.

I'm not military so all of this is either based on theory or some personal exp but I assumed this is how they handle certain things.  I have a good friend who worked for a big IT company, I think siemens, and they had a contract with the military.  One of his jobs was go to a secure bunker, pass through a serious security check and access their servers for maintenance.  Their stuff was not online.

I'd logically presume that things that needed an out, like CIA criminal database that needs to be shared around the country, would have to be online and thus hackable.  But if the U.S. military has a research project for creating a deathstar why would you want that online?  What benefit does it serve other than faster communication world wide? The risks are huge to have it online and the benefits small,  I'd think rather than risk the security breech they would just bring all of the help rather than have the info connected to the outside. 

So lets talk purely about Shadowrun: You haven't mentioned which edition you're talking about- I've been presuming Sixth since that's the newly current one.  In this new edition, the megacorps have finally and formally gotten rid of the Grid mechanic.  Private grids, or "mini-matrixes" were a thing ever since 1st edition but they're gone now... the corps have agreed it's better for everyone if everything is fully integrated. This is the afore-mentioned "penny-wise, pound-foolish" mentality corps are so prone to having.  Going back to real-world analogies: simply IS no distinction between NIPRNETs and SIPRNETs anymore (not that there really is a meaningful difference between them, anyway...)

I've read a good bit of 2e and am in the process of browsing 5e checking out differences.
« Last Edit: <10-11-19/1136:53> by Mechanized82 »

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Coordinator
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 4337
« Reply #12 on: <10-11-19/1152:19> »
That's pretty much exactly what IS done.  Military secrets aren't doing the military any good if they're locked away in a vault with no access to the outside world.

I'm not military so all of this is either based on theory or some personal exp but I assumed this is how they handle certain things.  I have a good friend who worked for a big IT company, I think siemens, and they had a contract with the military.  One of his jobs was go to a secure bunker, pass through a serious security check and access their servers for maintenance.  Their stuff was not online.

I'd logically presume that things that needed an out, like CIA criminal database that needs to be shared around the country, would have to be online and thus hackable.  But if the U.S. military has a research project for creating a deathstar why would you want that online?  What benefit does it serve other than faster communication world wide? The risks are huge to have it online and the benefits small,  I'd think rather than risk the security breech they would just bring all of the help rather than have the info connected to the outside.

We're not using "online" in the same way.  That friend of yours who went into the bunker to access servers? Those servers were assuredly "online".  I can't guess what specifically he was working on, but for example the military has its own "separate" internet that is partitioned off from the public internet.  However, they use the exact same technology, and in certain critical points, even the same infrastructure.  Therefore, despite being "offline" in a "you and I can't access it through the internet" sense, it absolutely IS accessible in a "can you hack it from outside the network? Absolutely" sense.

Attempts to use shades of grey is how hackers get in.  The only secure computer is a computer that's powered off.  If someone can get into the computer to use it for legitimate purposes, then so too can a hacker. Think of securing your secrets is like putting them in a safe.  The only guaranteed way to ensure hackers can't get in is to weld it shut and make sure NOONE can get in.  But that's only of value in very niche circumstances.
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.

Giabralter

  • *
  • Freelancer
  • Chummer
  • ***
  • Posts: 139
« Reply #13 on: <10-11-19/1207:25> »
I think the closest you are going to get with 6E currently is a nesting doll of hosts, where yes the main corporation is visible on the matrix, but specific offices and building hosts are nested wwithin so the decker would have to break through several hosts to get to the target.
Previous games played in older editions included wireless dampening walls and hardlines to specific servers so that sometimes you have to carry the decker into combat in order to get  the paydata.

penllawen

  • *
  • Omae
  • ***
  • Posts: 803
  • Let's go. In and out. Twenty minute milk run.
« Reply #14 on: <10-11-19/1259:53> »
I guess some of it just makes me think of the U.S. government putting all their military secrets in an online database waiting to be hacked.  That would just be absurd.  That stuff is in stand alone servers not connected to the internet hidden in underground bunkers guarded by armed personnel.
FWIW I agree with you. My runs often feature air-gapped systems or physical media cold storage the runners must physically access to obtain the McGuffin. I guess, based on this thread, that it isn’t very canonical, but it works just fine for us. Doesn’t seem to cause any mechanical issues.

One example was some blackmail material a Mafia lieutenant was keeping to put the squeeze on important people. The material was on physical storage in a safe in his office in a warehouse. Can’t see any reason he’d have kept that online, so he didn’t. Runners had to go and get it, old school.
« Last Edit: <10-11-19/1303:38> by penllawen »