The world of business, by the Shadowrun era, has become thoroughly international, with transactions taking place twenty-four hours a day via the Matrix. Naturally nocturnal metahumans often find off-hours jobs when working in fields that require sentient interaction; simulated personalities are common. Banks and data havens are on of the important cogs in the complex machinery of business.
Let’s take a look in the dictionary:
4. bank n [ME, fr. MF or OIt; MF banque, fr. OIt banca, lit., bench, of Gmc o]rigin; akin to OE benc obs 1a: the table, counter, or place of business of a money changer 1b: an establishment for the custody, loan, exchange, or issue of money, for the extension of credit, and for facilitating the transmission of funds
Banks are still around for securing items of value, but value has changed since all wealth was backed by precious metal. Money is, more often than not, nothing more than digital information, entirely lacking in physical substance.
If you have a good credstick, it should have all the fun stuff you’d expect to see on gold and platinum credit cards today, such as replacement of lost or stolen merchandise, an extension of a product’s warranty, automatic air travel insurance, safe deposits, secure data storage in your bank’s best protected computers (a virtual safe deposit box), Collision Damage Waiver insurance for rental cars, savings on hotel rooms in particular hotels, travel reservations, lines of credit, and so on. Platinum and ebony credsticks are very useful for travelling first class: it decreases the probability of discovery when travelling incognito, and gives access to luxurious private lounges while waiting for a flight, complimentary limousine service, the chance to disembark first and to board any time, and so on. (Appropriate tips and bribes are required, of course, but that’s what Etiquette (Corporate) and Etiquette (High Society) scores are for.)
A common banking service in the 2050’s is the Matrix equivalent of a safe deposit box. Most accounts will come with a basic amount of storage for free, starting at one megapulse for a plastic credstick and going with one megapulse per 1000¥ as the minimum for a credstick, so anyone with a platinum credstick has a very secure 200Mp datastore attached to their account. The datastore can only be accessed from within a legitimate bank branch, if you choose to set the permissions to that level of security, or it can be accessed from the outside by providing a given degree of authentication. A bank will generally charge about 1¥ per megapulse per month for storage beyond an account’s normal limit, though prices can be higher on extremely high-security installations. Deckers find such accounts very nice for depositing compressed copies of their utilities, as a high-security backup policy.
One major service available for free with Gold credsticks and for a few nuyen a month for lower-quality ones is that of running daemons (small computer programs designed to run continuously, usually to provide a service of some sort) that have access to your account. A daemon could be programmed to maintain a number of different subaccounts in different currencies, doing a little bit of money-market speculation with a basic fund to keep a globetrotting traveller’s multiple accounts topped up with the usual amounts of money they need. Large amounts of incoming money might automatically be shunted into a person’s mutual funds after a set time limit, and bills could be paid automatically. Folks who trust their own programming ability over the competence of mutual fund managers may even leave a daemon in control of some or all of their stock portfolio.
Banks can traffic in more than money. People will pay for information, and many banking organizations find it efficient to use the same security to safeguard their own account information and other records they have acquired. Legitimate banks may often collaborate with supermarket chains, car dealerships, and furniture stores to build customer profiles that they can then sell to other companies seeking to send junk mail (electronic or physical); for instance, the 2054 Bank of America may offer consumer purchasing profiles based on a person’s lifetime of transactions at Lucky supermarkets. Consultation of these lists is part of the more expensive levels of the identity verification process.
Data havens are banks that do a great deal of business in information, and they often operate in offshore jurisdictions where it’s difficult for people to crack in; some have no actual financial arm whatsoever, having gone over completely to information brokering. The Denver Data Haven, home of Shadowland, is one of the best, but many others offer their services in the Caribbean League, Switzerland, Singapore, and other such sites; in principle, a data haven can operate out of an oceangoing yacht with a satellite dish. (In practice, keeping a lock-on during a storm is tricky.)
Many intelligence operatives have “retired” to such sites, and sometimes even arrange for their own extraction from a legitimate intelligence organization in order to work there— often to join assets they embezzled or otherwise diverted in their previous job. These sites can offer high-quality intelligence for the right price, and may have very dirty dossiers indeed on individuals, consisting of everything from investigatory reports to newspaper and magazine articles to data dredged up by a decker, all of them rated on their quality by the staff at the data haven. For a fee, you can have special attention directed to a particular subject or person, which can result in anything from a new analysis being entered into the datastores to an information-gathering shadowrun. These prices are steep, but they can be cheaper than building your own black ops department.
A common feature of data havens is an open sort of “blackmail” policy. If they have something on file about you, you can pay for them not to hand it to anyone else. If someone wants to outbid you for your own file, they’ll contact you and give you the chance to pay more for them not to reveal the information. Alternatively, you can pay for them to lock up someone else’s file with precisely the same policy.
Data piracy is another practice found at data havens. An incredible number of commodities are nothing more than digital information: the latest hot simsense features, elvenrock tunes, and video games all end up as nothing more than bits, and bits can be copied very easily. Why pay 300,000¥ for a mainframe programming suite if you can pick it up for much less through your friendly neighborhood data haven? Third world countries are top customers for data pirates.
Naturally, the corps don’t like it when people eat into their profit margins, and take measures to combat data piracy. Movie chips that erase themselves on playing are common to keep people coming back for more, but the chip can’t tell the difference between a datajack, a simsense deck, and a computer that’s happy to record the whole feature to play back again and again. This means simsense decks capable of recording one chip with what they play off another tend to be only available as back-room modifications of normal ones, and such devices make excellent evidence that someone is engaging in felonious data piracy when discovered as part of an investigation.
Another step is the personalised copy of an item. When you buy something, your personal information is encrypted by the seller’s private key and downloaded at the beginning of the chip that stores the item. This can be easily changed or erased by any decker who knows an optical code chip from a cow pie, but possession of any software or signed data that doesn’t have the appropriate signature is evidence that a person is in receipt of stolen goods, and can quite often be tagged with conspiracy to commit grand theft.
More tricks can take place with software, such as requiring connecting to the Matrix for an update every so often, or arranging that the software be unwilling to run on a machine that doesn’t have the right burned-in ID code, or requiring a black box to be hooked up to an I/O port to decrypt crucial portions of the code. These things can all be hacked by determined deckers, and it’s very difficult to make data piracy actually unprofitable; programs usually become unuseable first.
|Sims and software more than a year old||1%–5%|
|Recent releases (behind SOTA)||5%–10%|
|Classics of data and design||10%–15%|
|The cutting edge||15%–20%|
Data havens that overindulge in data piracy tend to run into trouble with their host country and are often the subject of raids by the corps being hurt by the piracy (footage of which can later be found on that corp’s action sims); some corps even form joint cooperative raids on the data havens. In general, the prices set by data pirates tend to reflect the amount of bribery necessary to grease the wheels for the haven’s general existence, and tend to vary from 1% to 20% of the normal sale price of the item, depending on its rarity, newness, popularity, and how close it is to the State Of The Art. (Mainframe programming suites and hermetic libraries are usually in the 10%–15% price range: their market is small, so the corps that sell them aren’t quite as vindictive, which lowers the price, but the people that need them can afford to pay a good bit; as the rating goes up, so does the percentage.)
Data pirates avoid piracy of decking utilities, since pissed-off deckers are bad for business.
Banks and data havens tend to have heavy investments in security. In a world where shadowrunning is so common it has its own nickname, security is a luxury service that carries high premiums. As the illegality or value of the institution increases, the security goes up by leaps and bounds.
Data havens typically have impressive degrees of security. A typical data haven has multiple sites interconnected via the Matrix, regularly synchronizing their files through heavy encryption varying from extremely heavy encrypted group computation comparing file checksums to file updates protected by one-time pads delivered by couriers. The physical site may have an elegant façade, but at the core is going to be built using technology from the blockhouse and bomb shelter businesses.