In SR5 core rulebook, there is an example that states (emphasis added):

Tesseract needs to pick up a pice of data a Renraku sarariman has on his commlink, and he decides to go for a smash-and-grab. The target isn't running silent, so he can see the file he wants, but it's protected.

However, I'm unable to find a ruling about how this works if the commlink is running silent. An application of exception-proves-the-rule would suggest that there is some extra step required before the hacker can see the files on a silent commlink. Does the hacker need a mark (or multiple marks) on a commlink before they can see the files that are on it? Is there an additional matrix perception test involved?

I've probably just missed the text about this somewhere in the SR5 core tome, but if anyone could help me out that would be much appreciated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Found another answer further down on the same question by the same author which directly contradicts the one linked (see rpg.stackexchange.com/a/64537/22541); apparently hosts do hide their contents from public grids. Still very unclear about silent running commlinks. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2017 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using the RAW tag means that you are not interested in answers base on the interpretation of the rules, ie. you wanna stick to the letter of the law. Is this the case? \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Nov 7, 2017 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, it seems you are interested in files on commlinks. If that is the case, you should remove the mention of hosts, as that may be confusing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is the case. If it turns out that there is no raw text I will remove the tag. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2017 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


No, you need to make a Matrix Perception check

The Matrix Perception side table at page 235 shows what type of information you can acquire using the skill, including finding out if an Icon is hidden or not, what type of icon it is, if it is protected or not. Each piece of information requires one success.

Files, hosts, commlinks and personas are all icons on the matrix (p. 216):

icon: The virtual representation of a device, persona, file, or host in the Matrix.

When an icon is running silent, you first must know that information before you can even try to identify the icon. That means you need at least two successes to identify the icon, one to find that there is a hidden icon somewhere nearby, and another to identify the icon.

And finally, a third success is necessary to tell which files that icon has, as described on the Matrix Perception Action (p. 241):

For each net hit scored, you can ask for one piece of information about the object—this could be type, a rating, how many marks it has on it, any files it may be carrying, which grid it is using, whether any silent running icons are in the area, or any other pertinent Matrix information.

Though this is not listed on the previously mentioned (non-exhaustive) table, it is a valid question you can ask the GM about the host.

But you cannot access the file if it's protected

If the file is from a host, it most likely will be protected. What does that mean? It has some level of security measures on it, like passwords or voice recognition. Files on commlinks will depend on the owner, they may not wish to protect all their files, it will depend on the information on each file. But I suspect that lists of contacts, chat logs and illegal files will most likely be protected if the user is a hacker himself.

The owner of a file can always use the Edit File Action to protect it (p.239):

You can also use this action to set protection on a file if you’re its owner. To protect a file, make a Simple Computer + Logic [Data Processing] test. The number of hits you get becomes the rating of the protected file. A protected file cannot be read, changed, deleted, or copied until its protection is broken.

That means that before you even have the chance to make a copy of that file, you must use the Crack File Action (p.238), which allows you to remove any protection the file has:

CRACK FILE (complex Action)

Marks Required: 1

Test: Hacking + Logic [Attack] v. Protection Rating x 2 You remove the protection from a file, making it readable. This action doesn’t need to be performed on a file that isn’t protected, of course.

I bolded the important part: Requires a mark.

In other words, you cannot make a copy, erase or edit the contents of a protected file without first obtaining a mark on it. Remember that files are also icons, as I mentioned earlier. Which means that the Hack on the Fly Action (p. 240) can be used to obtain marks on a file without requiring you to obtain marks on it's owner icon first (the target commlink or host).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, the question is about commlinks, not hosts, it is just worded confusingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules I quoted treats them equally. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but you also write about them specifically, which adds to the confusion. Also, hosts can store files in other ways too, which this does not cover. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Addressed the other problem that hackers may face when looking for files. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Awesome, thanks chummer! And sorry about the confusingly worded question. I edited it like 10 times as I dug up new bits of information, so it's probably not the most focused question I've ever asked at this point. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2017 at 12:12

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