A normal user could set file protection using the Edit File data processing Matrix action (core 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.

This protection could be removed with a Crack File attack Matrix action (core p. 238).
However, normal users cannot use attack Matrix actions so how does a team work with their own protected files?

This will be my first SR5 game so I am fairly new to the system, but from what I have read on Shadowrun forums the Matrix part of the rules has a lot of bugs. It would be nice to get a confirmation from more seasoned players that this is indeed a bug and what would be reasonable solutions within the system.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In the real world, a protected file must be temporarily unprotected by the owner while it's worked with. I don't know SR5, but it might be assuming that bit of data-management knowledge, and make more sense with it. Does it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2015 at 0:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This really is SR5 specific.The problem is that as far as I know even the owner could not remove the protection without attack action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Korusef
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 0:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have my books with me, but I'll see what I can look up when I'm back from third long weekend. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2015 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Korusef turns out I have the 20th edition book, which is 4th edition...That being said when you encrypt something in 4E, you get a key which lets you decrypt that file without a check. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2015 at 0:21

2 Answers 2


In the absence of RAW, I generally turn to the real world for workable rules. The generally accepted solution to this problem is public-key cryptography and in most cases it is largely invisible to the user. I don't see why it would be any different in Shadowrun.

Your whole team has one public key and each team member has a private key. Everyone stores their keys on their commlinks. Let's say you're the team's Decker and you want to send some data securely to your buddy the Street Samurai, who can't Crack File. You encrypt the file (using Edit File) with the public key, send it to the Street Samurai, and then when he goes to read the file his commlink automatically decrypts the file using his private key thus breaking the file protection and allowing him to read it. Once your partner is done reading the file, it gets encrypted again automatically by the device using his copy of the public key.


Considering that SR works in ways that are logical, when you lock a file, you just KNOW the password used to lock the file and can share it... just like if i give my computer's password to my wife, she'll be able to open it without blowing up half the hard drive...

I remember playing a computer game of shadowrun(or something very similar) where it was exclusively the hacking/matrix part of the game. Usually, by the 5th mission, most of the files were protected. (i know, PnP and VGs are different) However it shows people lock their files... a lot... and they can still use them, else they'd be deleted instead... which makes sense in a corporate-war world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You wouldn't want to lock files or devices with passwords, on the simple basis that it takes too long to punch in the password to access them unless you have a trivial password or you're employing some kind of password management software which remembers it for you (in either case, the password doesn't provide adequate security). In the fast-paced world of a runner, information access needs to be split-second so an automatic process like biometrics or public key encryption is the way to go. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac I would argue that passwords and key both provide the same level of security as far as the game is concerned. 1. The encrypted file would have the same rating either way. 2. Both could be picked up by a hacker. \$\endgroup\$
    – Korusef
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Korusef I would tend to disagree. Passwords are typically 8-16 characters. In contrast, the standard size for a personal RSA key is 2048 bits. As GM I might let a player attempt to roll Logic + Computer with a suitably high threshold to try and guess a password based solely on random luck, but the only way I would let a player get past an asymmetric cipher is with the correct key or the Crack File action. Also, in order for a hacker to steal your key(s), they would have to score marks on your commlink first. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dyndrilliac dude, you can surf the web by closing your eyes and letting yourself drift into the matrix, your password could believably be 12 gigabytes long and it wouldn't matter at all. you could upload it to your friends in a matter of hundredths of a second and the result would be the same. Or to fit within the theme, grant your friends a mark on the said file so they are assumed to know the password... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ and biometrics while you are in cyberspace... just doesnt add up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:22

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