Hacking Computers with Countermeasures


Rules Questions


Quick question, when a PC is hacking a computer that has a countermeasure, do they know that it has a countermeasure automatically or is there a way to detect if it has a countermeasure on it?


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I don't recall a specific rule on this, but I'd probably say they need to do an initial computer check to orient themselves to the system. If they barely succeed, they might know it has something, but not exactly what. If they succeed by a lot, they'd know the details.

In any case, they'd need multiple computer checks (or much harder computer checks) to get around the countermeasures. Depending on the countermeasure, if they fail, the system might fry itself, set off alarms, delete data, totally encrypt the data, or even try to 'hack back' at other computers (i.e. the PC's in the area).


Jim H wrote:

I don't recall a specific rule on this, but I'd probably say they need to do an initial computer check to orient themselves to the system. If they barely succeed, they might know it has something, but not exactly what. If they succeed by a lot, they'd know the details.

In any case, they'd need multiple computer checks (or much harder computer checks) to get around the countermeasures. Depending on the countermeasure, if they fail, the system might fry itself, set off alarms, delete data, totally encrypt the data, or even try to 'hack back' at other computers (i.e. the PC's in the area).

That's... not really at all how they work. Countermeasures don't require more Computers checks and they don't make hacking harder. The only exception is the Firewall which does exactly both of those things, but only for parts of the system.

So, no, characters do not know a computer has countermeasures. Non-firewall countermeasures also only trigger if you fail to break into the computer, but even then, you don't know that countermeasures have been activated.
Once you have successfully hacked into a computer, I would think that you know which countermeasures it has. Otherwise, the ability of the Mechanic's Expert Rig doesn't really make sense. But apart from special abilities (like Expert Rig), you couldn't just turn them off either. You definitely don't know the countermeasures before hacking and you don't know them if you fail.
Speaking about the Mechanic, that last part (knowing countermeasures if you fail) is a Mechanic Trick which also grants them the ability to deactivate one of them if they fail. That does require an additional check, of course.

Also, computers can not hack. Apart from very specific things like the Feedback countermeasure or the Hacker’s Curse Trap, I would never, ever allow computers to hack other computers. 'cause if you allow that, you basically make the Mechanic's defining ability (hacking at range) completely useless because computers and range upgrades are dirt cheap.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Nixitur wrote:

That's... not really at all how they work. Countermeasures don't require more Computers checks and they don't make hacking harder. The only exception is the Firewall which does exactly both of those things, but only for parts of the system.

So, no, characters do not know a computer has countermeasures. Non-firewall countermeasures also only trigger if you fail to break into the computer, but even then, you don't know that countermeasures have been activated.
Once you have successfully hacked into a computer, I would think that you know which countermeasures it has. Otherwise, the ability of the Mechanic's Expert Rig doesn't really make sense. But apart from special abilities (like Expert Rig), you couldn't just turn them off either. You definitely don't know the countermeasures before hacking and you don't know them if you fail.
Speaking about the Mechanic, that last part (knowing countermeasures if you fail) is a Mechanic Trick which also grants them the ability to deactivate one of them if they fail. That does require an additional check, of course.

Also, computers can not hack. Apart from very specific things like the Feedback countermeasure or the Hacker’s Curse Trap, I would never, ever allow computers to hack other computers. 'cause if you allow that, you basically make the Mechanic's defining ability (hacking at range) completely useless because computers and range upgrades are...

I guess I lumped defenses and countermeasures together (in part since in computer security today we often call those defenses countermeasures). As far as hacking back, one listed countermeasure is a virus, which can affect the computer you're hacking from. Having the computer actively hack back might upset game mechanics, but it's certainly the way technology is going today -- there are many discussions that we'll all have to have computer defenses with strong AI because a lot of the attacks will have strong AI and human won't be able to keep up.


Jim H wrote:
Having the computer actively hack back might upset game mechanics, but it's certainly the way technology is going today -- there are many discussions that we'll all have to have computer defenses with strong AI because a lot of the attacks will have strong AI and human won't be able to keep up.

That's cool and all, but this is a thread about this game with specific rules and mechanics, not about flavor or the real world or what the real world might be like in a few hundred years. And yes, I know about that virus countermeasure, and I addressed it in my post as a specific exception.

I'm going from the, I would hope, fairly reasonable assumption of "55 bucks should not make several of a class' main gimmicks completely obsolete".

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