While there are many strategies involved in successfully hacking a network, all hacks use a combination of Brute Force and/or Stealth.
A Brute Force hack is where the player attacks a network with damage dealing offensive programs in an attempt to overwhelm and capture nodes on the network. In the early game, players have access to only a few types of Offensive and Defensive programs, and a single available strategy: capturing nodes using Beam Cannons and Shurikens. At higher levels, players will acquire programs with different attacks such as Worms and Krakens, allowing the development of more advanced strategies.
Performing a Brute Force Attack
Brute Force attacks are performed by selecting the node that you wish to install a program on, and selecting a program from your list of compiled programs stored in your library. Programs with a padlock icon can not be installed on that node under the current conditions. Each program has a different install time. Once successfully installed, the program will begin to attack connecting nodes.
Networks are generally built with one or more clusters of defensive sections - places with a high concentration of Security Nodes. When attackers compromise the entry node of such a layout, Security Nodes fight back and can regain it quite quickly. To keep nodes under the control of the attacker, it is possible to strengthen them by using Defensive Programs such as ICE Wall and Protector.
Different programs have different methods of attack, with some programs also having additional special abilities. When an offensive program has a choice of which node to attack, most programs select a target using the following criteria.
Priority list: (Updated for v.1.2 - see Patch Notes)
- Security Nodes with a Strength value - Sentry, Turret and Black ICE - and A.I. Nodes which have an antivirus installed. Other Security Nodes - Guardian, Scanner and Code Gate - are considered regular nodes in this regard.
- White A.I. Nodes which do not have an antivirus installed.
- The Core, regarding of antivirus status, including a Core that is upgrading.
- Any other Black Nodes - Nodes with an installed antivirus.
- Partially Black Nodes - Nodes where an antivirus is currently being uploaded.
- White Nodes and Upgrading Nodes - Nodes which are upgrading and Nodes where an antivirus is not present (including upgrading Security Nodes, but not including an upgrading Core).
- Nodes under the Wraith effect.
As of Patch v1.025, if multiple connected nodes fall under the same category, programs will prioritize nodes with the highest firewall first. If these nodes also have the same firewall value, programs will prioritize the node which the defender attached first.
A Stealth hack is where the player infiltrates the network and installs stealth programs, either to get in and out of a network undetected, or to weaken a network in preparation for a Brute Force attack. When you initially connect to another network, the network defenses are not aware of your presence. By utilising Stealth programs, you can hack a part of the network in Access mode. In this mode, you can neutralize Security Nodes, loot resources and even hack the Core.
To start a stealth attack, an attacker first installs the Access program on a NetConnection node to gain access to neighboring nodes. Thereafter, an attacker can install more Access programs to penetrate the network further and install Data Leech, Wraith, and/or Portal programs to download resources, permanently disable nodes or gain full control of a node and the ability to place Brute Force programs deep inside the network.
Performing a Stealth Attack
- A Stealth hack will commence if your first attack is the Access program, placing the network into Access Mode. The timer will show "--.--" and a "Visibility" bar will appear showing the amount of time left before you're discovered on the network. This bar represents 3600 Visibility.
- Stealth attacks have a Visibility cost, stated in cost per second. Various factors can increase this visibility cost.
- Note that Wraith has an install time of 2 seconds and Portal has an install time of 6 seconds. Data Leech also has an additional cost based on the time it takes to download resources or Core data.
- Programs installed on to a Code Gate will have an increased cost in relation to its Filter strength.
- A Scanner will increase the cost of installed programs within 3 nodes by its Sensitivity statistic.
- Networks also have a natural stealth detection of 20/s. This statistic is shown on the Core for display purposes only - disabling the Core during the Stealth period does not make you harder to detect.
- Visibility costs are applied while a node is installing/active on the network. Every Stealth Program except Data Leech removes itself from the network once it is installed.
- Example 1: A Level 3 Access costs 150 visibility/sec. It would take 170 visibility to install the program, 200 visibility to install on a node within 3 nodes of a Level 1 Scanner and 680 visibility to install on a level 1 Code Gate.
- Example 2: A Level 5 Data Leech costs 20 visibility/sec. It would take 40 visibility to install the program onto a Core, and would cost an additional 40 visibility per second of the Core download. If the Core was in range of a Level 7 Scanner, it would cost 60 visibility to install, and an additional 60 visibility per second to download the Core.
- Attempting to install any program that isn't a Stealth program will end the Stealth phase and begin a Brute Force attack.
- When the Stealth phase ends, all Stealth programs except Portal are removed, including Data Leech programs. Since Wraith removes itself once it has installed, nodes disabled by Wraith will stay disabled for the duration of the hack.
Using this information, an attack on a network can be planned. Steal all the Resources and run. Download the Core directly for easy Reputation. Soften up the Security Nodes before launching a full scale assault or simply charge through the front door - the choice is yours.
- It is recommended not to install Access and Wraith at the same time on a Code Gate or any other node you plan to disable using Wraith. Doing so will increase visibility costs dramatically, especially fatal when you have a low amount of visibility remaining. First install Wraith, wait until it finishes its job, and then you can install Access immediately after.
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