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My characters are on a space station trying to bring in the bad guy. To do this, they need to bring down the local station network, so communications on the station itself are impossible. (External communication is handled differently in this world and the bad guy can still do that.) This will effectively blind my bad guy for a time.

I'm pretty dumb when it comes to these things, but I assume there is a device or devices that generate the signal(s) that get broadcast throughout the station. Would be as simple as unplugging devices or destroying cables? Or would a software/code-based attack make more sense?

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  • $\begingroup$ If there is a main switch in a room (or switches in rooms) which the characters have access to, go nuts with a hammer (or unplug uplink cables). If it isn't distributed, it'll probably still have a redundant backup which will also need to be unplugged. Plugging in an unmanaged switch into cables of all different colours might just be a better way to screw up a well engineered network. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Feb 9, 2023 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ You have told us nothing about the network. Is it wireless, hardwired, or a mix of both? Is the code something knocked together by an unskilled programmer or is it a government or commercial product with a peer-reviewed algorithm that has been implemented intelligently? Can radio signals propagate within the station or does internal shielding stop them? Is the electrical grid able to carry signal traffic (through design or otherwise)? What capabilities do the "characters" and the "bad guy" have? Who is the "bad guy" trying to communicate with and what are their capabilities? $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2023 at 4:12
  • $\begingroup$ How do the communications work on your station? are we talking police radios, or more like the internet? Whatever it is, it can probably be broken, but it will depend on what kind of system it is. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2023 at 14:03

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You have a variety of options, depending on how the network operates:

Wifi / cellular type communications, cheaply messed with via blanket jamming: Create a device that generates sparks and situate it near any receivers. A spark generator near a receiver will easily overwhelm far more powerful, but more distant transmitters, across the whole spectrum. Cheap, easy, and you don't need to know anything about the radio network, other than the location of the receivers.

Targeted jamming: you have a radio. It receives signals and then simply blasts static on those particular frequencies. We can do this today pretty easily with software defined radios. This is a lot more technical though, and implies things about the strength of your transmitter, or, again, its distance to any and all receivers.

Wired networks: Snip the cables or, if you have the ability to use the network, you could try flooding it. This is where you simply jam more data onto the network (especially through multiple connection points) than the network can handle. Really, good networks should prevent this from causing any real problems but bad guys probably aren't known for their technical savvy or ability to hire competent network designers.

Hacking the computers/software would probably be the hardest thing to do. Although it's still feasible enough that you can hand-waive it with your "master hacker" hired character that happens to show up. (Flooding the network is just a type of really low skill "hack". Sometimes people accidentally flood their own network just by attaching too many devices to it. e.g., plug in enough cameras and your home network will become useless, too.)

None of this should "destroy the station". Station subsystems should (under even the vaguest engineering requirements for any universe) continue to operate. i.e. the reactor probably continues to operate normally even if it has stopped getting signals from the bridge. Wouldn't want your entire station to go offline just because of a solar flare or some other interruption in communication.

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    $\begingroup$ Hacking the network is easy. You just find one of the underpaid, overworked code monkeys who run the thing and say "leave the door open when you leave work tonight, there's $1,000 in it for you". $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Feb 8, 2023 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB thanks for this - I'm looking at the blanket jamming. You say it shouldn't destroy the station - but will it bring down the whole network down in the station? Fine if it can be brought back up soon. The spark generator actually works well with things the characters have already been doing in the story. $\endgroup$
    – MajorTom
    Feb 9, 2023 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @majorTom It should certainly bring down any wireless network, provided the sparkers (jammers) are close enough to the receivers that they overwhelm any transmitters, which shouldn't be too hard. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 9, 2023 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ @MajorTom I think that would be fine, so long as the cycle is very rapid -- not sure if it needs to be 10 Hz or 200 Hz but definitely "multiple times per second". High bandwidth networks can likely deal with "intermittent" bursts, but many times per second should, I believe, render them all unusable. Bad Guy needs to first see the problem, then track it down to the sparkers, but that should take some time. ("Did you try rebooting the servers?") $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 9, 2023 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB Great - I don't even know if the readers need that much info. Appreciate the help! $\endgroup$
    – MajorTom
    Feb 9, 2023 at 18:56
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Signal-jamming

Most signalling – WiFi, GPS, radio, phone networks, satellite internet, radar – is some form of electromagnetic radiation. Signal-jamming works by screaming in their electromagnetic frequency at their ship. Their communications instruments are flooded with noise and can't pick out the signal.

Jamming and counter-jamming is a long and complex subject that many entire research careers have been devoted to. There are countermeasures, like, say, communicating on a new pre-agreed frequency-band every ten seconds, so the jammer won't know which band to scream in. And counter-counter-measures, like screaming in all feasible bands (which takes a lot of energy), and more complex things like orthogonal waves and different kinds of polarisation.

"We jam their signal" is sufficient for many stories.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Easy, just start screaming." snirk +1 $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2023 at 22:00

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