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Video Game / Hacknet

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Hacknet is a Hacking Simulation Game released in 2015. The player character receives a mysterious email from a hacker named "Bit" and slowly uncovers a conspiracy that could change the world forever.

The game was released on Steam, Twitch Prime, and

Not to be confused with NetHack.

A DLC named "Hacknet Labyrinths" was released on March 31, 2017.

This game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Bit. EnTech's CEO only wanted his goon to intimidate Bit into silence about Project Hacknet. Unfortunately, a miscommunication led the goon to believe he wanted Bit dead which he carried out before the CEO could stop him.
  • Alternate Reality Game:
    • It is one. The very last line in the game confirms you're using the very HackNet software mentioned in the story.
    • Labyrinths takes this a step further with a mission that crashes the game itself, which won't start correctly until you delete a file on your own computer.
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  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Once you use the Sequencer to start the final boss, the interface suddenly changes color when the Battle Theme Music kicks in.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Kaguya. Confirmed by Matt Trobbiani himself.
  • Artificial Stupidity: When Naix attacks the player's in-game computer, he'll delete x-server.sys - but not anything else, including any theme files the player may have in their /sys directory at that point.
  • Battle Theme Music: In order to start the Final Boss, you have to activate a modified music sequencer program, which signals Vapor to connect you to EnTech's backup archives. Naturally, it fulfills it's regular function and plays an intense electronic song (Carpenter Brut's adrenaline-pumping "Roller Mobster") during the attack.
  • Bonus Boss: One server, the CCC Hacksquad Filedump, traces any hacking attempts in mere seconds, making it even harder to hack than the final boss! There's no way to get into it until the postgame, and the intended method is pretty quirky- you need to go to the credits server and download the Security Trace.exe program that the dev has put in the bin. Then, you need to run it while hacking each port, since only one trace can be on your system at a time, and killing the process before time runs out. There is an actual password, though if you even attempt to hack it, the password cycles, rendering the contents effectively Lost Forever. It's "honeypot", fitting given the server's purpose. The reward for breaking in is an exclusive honey-themed X-server.
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  • Big Bad: Kaguya. Unlike Entech CEO whose actions were only criminally careless (letting general public run wild with a Hollywood Hacking tool for a while), Kaguya was planning to kill hundreds personally - see Evil Plan.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Macrosoft, eOS, CFC... where to start? Although Windows and Linux are namedropped.
    • Incidentally, CFC is an actual brand.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • The mission "Project Junebug" (see Nightmare Fuel on the YMMV subpage) must be followed until a certain point, as it is the only legitimate way to get KBT_PortTester.exe, which is necessary to open port 104.
    • Once you get to the final arc, you can find a copy of the needed program in the CSEC Assets Server once you reach the final arc.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sequencer.exe, a program in the CSEC Asset Server that doesn't seem to have any use, is used at the end of the game to signal Vapor to start the attack on EnTech's backup servers.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: In the endgame, most of Entech's servers are protected by an "Invioability Error" that prevents PortHack from working, necessitating the player to find out a correct user/password combination another way. That said, Entech created PortHack in the first place, so of course they'd have countermeasures for it.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Entech CEO. Even if Bit's death was a miscommunication, Project HackNet is a horrifying breach of antitrust and cyber security laws.
  • The Cracker: Naix. He does not take well to being reined in, either.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Coel in Labyrinths. When Kaguya reveals their plan to crash a plane and D3f4ult agrees with this plan, Coel activates a .bat file that kicks and bans Kaguya and D3f4ult from the IRC server.
  • Crippling Overspecialisation: The Hacknet OS is a very powerful hacking tool. However, it was not designed for functions that aren't hacking-related, like IRC chat.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Entech's CEO wanted Bit to be "discouraged". He meant "Smash up his computers and have him arrested". Unfortunately, the person who was given the task interpreted it as "Have Bit killed".
  • Dead Man Writing: Hacknet is one giant example from Bit, set to email 14 days after he goes dark (and is presumably dead). There's a bit of humor as Bit struggles with what tense he should be writing in. The program is set to guide you through the program and do a few introductory tasks and housekeeping for Bit before it sends you to Entropy to learn more and figure things out yourself. At the end of the game, after EnTech's copies of Hacknet are deleted, you're sent one last message directing you to PortHack's "heart" in order to terminate it, which to one last message, this time a recording, thanking the player before your own copy of Hacknet gets deleted.
  • Dead to Begin With: Bit. The introductory email is sent after a 14-day timer expires.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Kaguya's missions can be taken on just before the player takes on Naix. In this case, SignalScramble.exe becomes this, as it allows the player to become immune to traces far earlier than the game expects. While it needs admin privileges to run and takes up a whopping 600 MB of your in-game RAM, it can be started while Porthack is running, slowing down traces even before it's completely loaded.
  • Dueling Hackers:
    • During a certain mission, Naix will trace you, delete a file on your in-game PC and then execute a forkbomb to force a reboot. Don't worry, you can certainly retaliate.
    • During Labyrinths, after you take the Memory Dump Generator from Striker's machine, he'll inject a .dll file (VMBootloaderTrap.dll) that prevents the Hacknet Virtual Machine from starting up. Even worse, this can't be fixed within Hacknet itself. Thankfully, Coel helps the player by giving you directions on how to remove the offending .dll file.
    • If you react quickly enough when they attack you, you can actively thwart both Naix and Striker's hacking by shell'ing and setting a trap on your own terminal and thereby shut their terminals down when it executes.
    • At the end of Labrynths you can potentially fight Kaguya's endgame by preventing the plane crash.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bit's cause of death. The CEO of Entech tried to stop the assassination, but couldn't.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: TraceKill.exe, or its (near) equivalent from Labyrinths, SignalScramble.exe.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: One of the systems you have to hack into during the endgame reveals Entech to be this, as they've taken significant expense to allow one of their employees who suffers from a severe heart disease to work safely by constantly monitoring their pacemaker from their desktop.
  • Evil Plan:
    • The purpose of Hacknet is to kickstart a massive cybercrime spree by leaking it out to the public so that EnTech can sell their own Hacknet-proof software.
    • Kaguya has one too, and theirs includes hundreds of fatalities. Step 1: Stage a very public computer attack using a group of hackers they assembled and trained. Crashing two passenger jets into the ocean would do nicely. Step 2: Introduce an untraceable back door into the security fix. Step 3: Have full access into all servers running the patched software.
  • Featureless Protagonist: You, since the game's interface is the software itself.
  • Final-Exam Boss: EnTech_offline_Cycling_Backup. It has both a firewall and a proxy you need to bypass, and uses every single port. And you need to get past them all and delete EnTech's Hacknet builds before time runs out.
  • 555: Averted.
    • The servers use realistic, if randomized, IP adresses.
    • The services on the servers are also running on the correct ports (FTP on port 21, SSH on port 22, SMTP on port 25, HTTP on port 80, DICOM Medical Services on port 104 and SQL on port 1433.)
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The third faction /el is this. To get to them, the player needs to delete x-server.sys on Naix' root gateway and then following his missions. However, this is not possible anymore if "Aggression must be punished" has been completed.
    • And going through the game the normal way, you'll get dumped into what looks like a Non Standard Game Over with your system crippled. You actually have all the tools you need to swipe a replacement file from practically any machine (including the system Naix just hacked you from), but it requires using text commands that even the tutorial let you use a GUI for, and has to be done on the intimidatingly sparse terminal interface.
      • Naix' attack on you can actually be repelled, if you remember from the in-game NetEdu archives that a shell command can be set to "Trap" and then triggered to release an emergency forkbomb on all incoming connections. Doing this when the game tells you of the "suspicious activity" on port 22 will crash Naix' proxy and sever his connection to your machine before he can delete x-server.sys and run the forkbomb.
    • The game never tells you that it remembers the user/password combinations found using PortHack, and these can be used to log in on repeat connections. More than just saving time, this is a "legitimate" login and won't trigger a trace (though you still want to scrub the logs before you leave).
    • The 'TRUE ULTIMATE POWER' achievement for getting Clock.exe requires you to follow a very subtle trail of breadcrumbs some other hackers are looking into, then hack a specific JMail account to get the IP for an undocumented server. By the time you first run into it you might not even have all the tools you need to do it, so hope you remembered it later!
  • Gameplay Story Segregation: At the end of the game, your copy of Hacknet gets deleted in order to ensure nobody gets ahold of it. After the credits roll, you're immediately brought back to the interface and can basically muck around with whatever's left, including a new "credits server".
  • Hacker Collective: The game stages are best summarized about which group you are currently working for.
  • Heroic Mime: A text-based example. The protagonist never actually communicates with anyone, only using emails to confirm they completed a mission and provide required information like passwords or IP addresses (with the exception of an opportunity to use some colorful language against Naix). This stands out even more in Labyrinths, where the hub is an IRC room where everyone shares their thoughts and feelings, but the protagonist never even sends a ping. No one seems to mind, though. Except maybe the player.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Kaguya puts the plan to crash a plane into action, they drop links to two planes in the IRC chatroom. This enables the player to fix the crashing plane by uploading a new copy of the deleted .dll file and reloading the firmware.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Played with. The descriptions of the various protocol exploits used are actually based on sound theorynote  but then you still have to use the magic "porthack" to crack into the system. Then you discover Porthack is an In-Universe example of Hollywood Hacking, except it works. The last act's theme is how ridiculously dangerous this is.
  • Idiot Programming: The notes program consumes ridiculous amounts of ram. The explanation is that it intentionally wastes memory to implement the text display.
  • Interquel: Labyrinths is this to the main game, taking place after the player joins Entropy but before they begin investigating Bit's death.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Naix refers to the player as a 'script kiddie' after you delete the data off their proxy. Which is correct, since you either steal or get given all your exploit tools from or by other people. Even PortHack and HackNet. The endgame is all about how dangerous it is to have tools so simple even a novice like you can go around hacking mainframes.
  • Jump Scare: If you aren't paying attention, and if you have a CD tray on your real computer, connecting to your ingame computer and typing 'opencdtray' can be this
  • Last Chance Hit Point: Unlike Uplink, getting traced does not mean immediate Game Over. It does, however, start a "Trace Aversion Sequence" that the player must complete by getting a new IP address before the trace truly completes. The Hacknet OS does this by triggering a self-induced crash at the very moment when the ping from the hostile server arrives, giving it no return, so that the hostile server assumes the ping never arrived.
  • Mega-Corp: Entech
  • Mercy Kill: Suggested with "Project Junebug": This mission entails hacking into a man's pacemaker to shut it down and kill him, ostensibly because he suffers from chronic pain but was denied his right to die.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • At the end of Labyrinths, you are given the Sadistic Choice to either upload a working firmware to a crashing plane and save everyone involved while letting potentially catastrophic chemical weapons data reach its target; do nothing and let everyone on the plane die, more or less ensuring the data is gone forever; or help crash a second plane with the backups too, eliminating the data forever. Since there's no real "good" choice, only the final dialogue changes - the endgame is the same in all cases.
    • Explore Kaguya's server after the above events - They are lying through their teeth about everything. See Evil Plan.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The use of Synthwave as the primary soundtrack, especially in the more intense parts of the game, naturally leads to this as all you do is type, point, and click.
  • The Needs of the Many: Kaguya's argument at the end of Labyrinths. While crashing the plane(s) would lead to the deaths of many innocent lives, it's the only way to destroy data that, if used by the wrong people, could result in the deaths of thousands more. Coel doesn't agree with this reasoning.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Bit comes to this conclusion when he found out that EnTech planned to leak Hacknet to the world so that they could sell their own Hacknet-proof software. The reason why you were sent Hacknet is so that you could find out and destroy their copies before it's too late. Once you succeed, Bit directs you to PortHack's "heart" to terminate it, whereupon Hacknet shuts down and a recorded message from Bit plays thanking the player and explaining that there's just one copy of Hacknet left to delete...
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted, played straight, and justified in various respects. Hacknet itself is only in the prototyping phase anyway - and you're using a leaked copy of it. Averted in that there is a backup of the development builds; the final mission of the game is to destroy said backup while your contact hits the active server, preventing one from restoring the other. Played straight in that there's only the one backup, instead of some sort of distributed system. Justified in that EnTech's plans are hideously illegal and would have transparently screwed over their subcontractors, so they had to keep things quiet. Also, the backup system is supposed to be kept offline to prevent hacking at all, but another hacker is able to force it to do an online update check, giving you a shot at it.
  • Not What I Signed on For:
    • When Bit hacked into Entech's mainframe one night and discovered their plan, he had a change of heart.
    • In the DLC, Coel (and potentially the player) will turn on Kaguya once they reveal that their plan will have collateral damage.
  • Playful Hacker: The player, as well as (presumably) the other members of Entropy and CSEC.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
    • All eOS devices use "alpine" as the admin passwordnote . Justified as the end users don't have access to the console of their devices and can't change the default password. Averted in Labyrinths in one particular device, as it was jailbroken and the default password changed, making the player have to root around for the password via other methods.
    • The CCCHacksquad server also starts with a predetermined password. The password is "honeypot", but attempting to hack it causes the password to change and, due to updates preventing certain exploits from working, renders the server's contents inaccessible until the postgame.
  • Password Slot Machine: Averted. As soon as enough ports are open, PortHack will find the admin password, but not display it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A miscommunication between En Tech's CEO and one of his contacts led to Bit being killed.
  • Sadistic Choice: See Multiple Endings above.
  • The Reveal: Porthack's magical properties aren't an abstraction. It's really that powerful. You look like a genius cracker to the other groups because they're stuck using present-day tools.
    • To put this in perspective, all you would need to do to control just about any computer in the world is a crack, Porthack, and some decent knowhow of Terminal-based operating systems. Considering Bit teaches you this in under half an hour, a more dedicated hacker could destroy entire companies if they had the knowledge and dedication to learn.
  • Schmuck Bait: The CCCHacksquad server. Its only purpose is to teach the player what to do if a trace completes. If you're somehow able to crack it anyway, which involves gratuitous Loophole Abuse on an older version of the game, you get a unique display theme.
  • Sequence Breaking: The description for the "Quickdraw" achievement requires you to finish the tutorial faster than intended. It doesn't mean that you have to finish the entire tutorial sequence, as you can unlock this achievement simply by using the "kill" command to kill the tutorial process once it has started.
  • Shown Their Work: Even though the executables in the game itself are purely a case of Hollywood Hacking, the descriptions for them, the various systems, and the internet are remarkably well written and based in real life. Also the command console actually uses real life Linux commands to navigate with and several of the missions in the game are based on real life events such as the giant Neopets data breach in May 2016.
  • Spanner in the Works: Without Bit sending the player a complete copy of Hacknet, Entech's plan would have gone off without a hitch.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Uplink.
  • Sticky Fingers: You can copy and(/or) delete literally any file on any computer you hack. Whether it's a good idea or even matters depends on the mission, but pretty much every executable has to be copied from someone else's system (though some are gifts). If you're in a hurry but looking for a specific file, one tactic is to just copy everything and look through it later.
  • Super Prototype: Port Hack. The reason why the player is so easily able to hack isn't because they're good, but because Port Hack is an absurdly powerful tool. As a metaphor, most in-lore hacking devices can be considered akin to lockpicking tools, while Port Hack is like a battering ram. Port Hack is Bit's contribution to Entech's Hacknet project and is, in his words, the skills of a master hacker condensed into a program. The player's copy is the only one which ever had the complete program compiled into it.
  • Take That!: Naix' missions have you hacking into the corporate network of a company called "Nortron". Naix even says in one of his emails he'd rather have a virus than their "security software" clogging up his system.
  • The Team: The player, D3f4ult, Coel, and Kaguya.
  • Team Spirit: The overall theme of Labyrinths. Nearly every other mission Kaguya assigns has the team working together on a single goal, and there are multiple points where the player reaches a problem that can only be solved by another team member.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: By the endgame, you might have forgotten you're using the very Hacknet software you're just "discovering". Remember how easily it was for you to break into secure corporate networks and brick someone's pacemaker? Image everyone having that power.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The security tracer file that self-deletes Hacknet is bundled with Hacknet, and can be deleted by Hacknet. Somewhat averted, as one of the server logs says that the developers of Hacknet are working on hiding it.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • For a lot of the game, you can ignore the terminal and do everything but hacking by mouse. Not so when Naix deletes your copy of x-server, which is apparently the display you were using. Suddenly you're left with nothing but the terminal.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the DLC when even the terminal doesn't work - you have to delete a file on your own real life computer to resume the game.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: If you delete a file that you need to make progress, there's no way to get it back, except restarting the game. And it's quite easy to do this by accident, since you're constantly using "rm *" to delete log files. Run it in the wrong directory, and say goodbye to your files.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Sequencer.exe. At the moment you run the sequencer, you are immediately connected to the Entech offline backup network that was brought online, starting the final mission, and the moment you're connecting, you're immediately traced.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In the DLC, Kaguya ultimately uses this to defend their actions in the endgame. It's a front, their actions are self-motivated and unquestionably unethical. See Evil Plan.


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