Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

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ottarrus
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Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby ottarrus » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:23 am

So many players think they can skip out on their ship loans and it will take years for the authorities to catch up to them.
Utter nonsense.
IMTU, in order to completely skip out on a multi-million credit loan you'd have to completely replace the ship's computer, the power plant and both drives.
Because your ship needs servicing every 12 months. That servicing has to happen in a Class C or better starport. And deep in the guts of the computer, power plant, jump- and maneuver drives is a fail-safe timer. If your account is in arrears, all four systems will shut down 6 months after the last payment.
And it can't be reactivated until an agent from the bank arrives with a computer to reactivate those systems.

They're already talking about doing this with cars, folks, so it's not hard to imagine it 5000+ years in the future.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Garran » Wed Aug 25, 2021 5:55 am

The default is that the ship's transponder system acts as an account-keeper for payments, particularly in the case that the ship hasn't been anywhere that could process them (it escrows the payment until you arrive at a relevant starport). This is one of the reasons why transponder-tampering is so heavily frowned on, and in general it's enough to deal with issues of late/skipped payments.

Putting locks on all of those other systems is... less practical for a number of reasons. If someone is really intent on skipping out then they'll find a way to hack - or simply spoof - the systems in question (and the setup doesn't do one bit of good for ships that aren't operating in the same jurisdiction), but beyond that, locking down a car is (except in a few edge cases) just going to leave someone stuck somewhere inconvenient. Locking down a starship's drive/power/etc has a high likelihood of causing the loss of the entire ship and everyone on it - including people who had nothing to do with the payment problem. That's a shoot-self-in-foot move on the part of the banks, both legally and financially.


The fundamental problem with hard-nosed skip prevention methods is that starships (and their crews) in Traveller operate in a dangerous, poorly coordinated, and contingency-laden environment; the systems used for dealing with real-world car/house payments, which are very heavily predicated on stability and predictability, simply aren't going to work there.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Sigtrygg » Wed Aug 25, 2021 8:44 am

There are plenty of starports beyond the Empire's control if you make it past the border. There are no authorities to enforce the bank's claim...

an opportunity for a group of PCs to go into the wilds and serve the bank's papers...
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby ottarrus » Wed Aug 25, 2021 9:22 am

And that 'plenty of opportunity to lose themselves' is why such heavy handed tactics are necessary.

Unless you've got a hacker who can make several Impossible + rolls to evade or alter the programming, one of the required systems will shut down. And if they crack one, the next one will shut down, and then the next.
And about the shutting down process... no, it doesn't happen in deep space. I agree that that would be tantamount to murder. It happens when the ship is grounded at a starport. Not 'an Imperial starport'. If the starport will take Imperial Credits as currency, and/or if the debtor could make a payment from the facility [I believe the text is 'any Class C or better starport'], then the onboard system will find it a sufficient shutdown site.

The OTU isn't like Star Wars, where a cunning rogue with an eyepatch and a leather jacket can blithely go about stealing ships worth hundreds of millions of credits. Neither is it like Star Trek, where subspace communications makes keeping track of skippers relatively easy and Star Fleet will apprehend such felons when they're encountered. The Third Imperium is founded on trade between worlds. That trade and the economy that trade generates is whole reason and purpose of Imperial government. It's literally 'what keeps the lights on' insofar as interstellar civilization goes.

So you can bloody well bet that the banks are going to build fail-safes into the system when some clown makes off with 75 million credits of their property.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Wed Aug 25, 2021 11:51 am

Spacing as a Service.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Garran » Wed Aug 25, 2021 12:10 pm

Since they have control of the hardware and lots of time, a hacker is going to break that code eventually (impossible becomes quite possible with enough +2s). More than that, you can bet that cracking software will quickly start going around among shadier circles - people wanting to skip payments are the least of those who will have reason to disable that sort of protection. (Or just spoof the system to think that payments have been made.)

Aside from that, they can simply pull out and replace the components with non-locking ones. Unlike in the real world, where car makers have the advantage of being able to design everything as proprietary, can can control production well enough to keep it that way (except for the very determined), and have a ubiquitous enough presence across a country/region/worldwide to make it logistically practical, Traveller ship parts are, by necessity, generic-replaceable. Selling a ship that forces a time-dependent client to sit around twiddling their thumbs for months every time something needs to be replaced and the part has to be special ordered in from another sector... well, you might be able to do it, but you won't be needing to worry about their mortgage status with the required size of that discount.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby ottarrus » Wed Aug 25, 2021 12:15 pm

Pulling the four major components of a ship is prohibitively expensive unless you have a] a ship or ships you can strip the parts off of *and* b] a full service shipyard berth that nobody is using for the next three months, assuming you have those prohibitively expensive parts immediately to hand.
At that point, you might as well just make the damned payments.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Garran » Wed Aug 25, 2021 12:32 pm

Well, if you want to suppose that every part of the power plant is involved in the 'fail safe timer' mechanism, rather than it being some part(s) involved in the software/controls, then yes, it becomes harder to deal with.

It also puts you in the "ship turns into a useless brick for months every time a part needs to be replaced" basket for the reason given above. You aren't going to be selling many of those.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:04 pm

To be fair, if it kills it's crew, that's a potential liability.

Deep space is not somewhere you want to be when the fusion reactor decides to switch itself off.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Faelderg » Fri Aug 27, 2021 2:58 am

The first time a bank 'bricks' a ship that results in a death, that bank is going to be sued out of existence. The first time a bank is sued out of existence every other bank is going to rethink this policy.

Especially when it turns out that the ship was out on the fringe with nowhere to actually make the payment with the money they had.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby ottarrus » Fri Aug 27, 2021 8:07 am

Let me repeat, folks...

The fail-safe triggers while the ship is landed at a starport, not deep space. In the case of unstreamlined vessels, the fail-safe triggers in a stable orbit above a starport.
Small craft aboard ships are not effected, so passengers and crew can evacuate.

As for 'suing the bank out of existence', it would take a great deal of legal skill and about 100 years of repeated motions and counter-motions to even dent the boilerplate on a contract from Zirunkariish, Hortales et Cie, or the other banks. And let's not say that a noble house could do it. Every single megacorporation is led by nobles, some with subsector duchies. For that matter, one of the single most powerful nobles in the Imperium in 1105 is only a count. But he is Count Blaine Tukera who chairs the board of that megacorporation. And he's married to Duchess Margaret, a cousin to Emperor Strephon. So good luck suing that family out of business.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:20 am

Zero day attack.

Pirates send a signal that convinces the onboard computer that the mortgage cheque bounced.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby ottarrus » Fri Aug 27, 2021 11:11 am

Condottiere wrote:
Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:20 am
Zero day attack.

Pirates send a signal that convinces the onboard computer that the mortgage cheque bounced.
So the banks change the codes every year. No problem.
And finding a pirate band with a hacker able to make multiple Extended Tests against Impossible level skill checks would be rare indeed.
Attempting to hack the fail-safe is a criminal act which will trigger the fail-safe. The hacker is duly warned to cease their attempt, but if they proceed then the fail-safe triggers. **Wherever** the ship happens to be. So you'd better get it right the first time.
And another thing... you'd need a complete copy of the codes to hack them.
And there's nothing that says that codes for all four fail-safes are the same. Come to think of it, it would be silly to make them all the same.

BTW, I have no problem whatsoever with players trying to hack the fail-safes. But they'd better be ready for a lot of frustration because as a referee I'm gonna make it as hard as possible to do.
As the thread title says, 'the bank is not stupid'.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Being » Fri Aug 27, 2021 2:44 pm

So the Pirates just send hacking attempts at an target ship until it closes down and board it at leisure? Enemy ships do the same, both with the advantage that the crudest hacking attempts will close the ship down.?

Also never visit a starport. Simply use smallcraft as tenders. Do your maintenance out of Imperial space.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Geir » Fri Aug 27, 2021 3:48 pm

Even if the tech used to trace is a snail-mailed book of VINs distributed by the Starport Authority, the result is the same for skipped ships and their crews: Hanging out in Freeports and other dens of inequities and performing questionable services or exchanging illicit goods in return for suspect maintenance.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Garran » Fri Aug 27, 2021 4:10 pm

Changing codes every year runs into the "communication is slow and unreliable" problem (a lot of ships won't get their new codes in time), as well as the problem of those codes quickly leaking (you can't keep secret something that involves that many people - we're talking about every starport, courier/mail ship, etc - someone somewhere is going to take a bribe) and being (mis)used by all and sundry. And, yes, hacking = shutdown makes the ship a laughably easy target for pirates; they don't even have to do it via comms. Pirates often slip agents onto the ships that they want to target, and this makes their job trivial.

In short, it falls apart in the face of the logistical and security challenges that it poses in the context of the Traveller universe, and that's setting aside the hardware problem of ships regularly being bricked because of monthly maintenance/parts replacement.


Also, how does the system know that you've landed at a starport? If it's a case of Imperium-official comm protocols when landing then that still doesn't work anywhere else (just because they take Imperial credits doesn't mean that they're going to implement every Imperium starport protocol - and many places would actively enjoy subverting this sort of thing), and you could also effectively foil it with a comm filter. Or, again, just spoof the system, especially since the 'secret' code updates will be all over the place before long.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Fri Aug 27, 2021 11:33 pm

My personal prediction is that hacking will become a capital crime.

And if we ever reach a point where megacorporations take over the world, I doubt they'd bother with due process if anybody tries infiltrating their databases.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby PsiTraveller » Sat Aug 28, 2021 11:11 am

For hacking attempts what happens when a TL 12 ship is attacked by a TL15 computer? Can a higher TL get past encryption in seconds/minutes instead of centuries?

Can a first edition Psion with the Machine Symbiosis Advanced Talent Interrogate or Control the Ship's computer to hand over the code to the account setting, or change the code to "paid in full"? (pg 63-64 of the Psion book)

Can a computer and/or Transponder be removed at a planet like Theev and a free and clear operating system be installed? A Linux version of Jump Navigation instead of the Mac Os? :)
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Sat Aug 28, 2021 11:34 am

With open source, we shouldn't have to pay for the spaceship computer programmes, especially after three millenia.
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Re: Skip Tracing IMTU, or 'Why banks aren't stupid'

Postby Condottiere » Sat Aug 28, 2021 12:50 pm

Which reminds of a solution regarding non compliance and engines.

All starships have a breakaway hull containing the jump drive with a separate crew paid by the bank.

You don't pay, they disconnect and go home.

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