Uplink: Hacker Elite Guide and Walkthrough - Giant Bomb

graceacupuncture - 12/05/2022 - NEWS - 223 Views


This Getting Started guide, based on a personal Steam Community guide, is designed to help you learn to play Uplink (aka Uplink: Hacker Elite) in a manner which will give you at least a 70% chance of not being fired from Uplink Corporation. Give or take 68%. It includes plenty of personal advice, god-awful attempts at humor and yet is largely designed to try and help new players understand the particularly niche form of gameplay this "Hollywood hacking simulator" was designed to portray.

Despite occupying a similar sub-genre of strategy/puzzle games like other hacking games, such as Hacker Evolution, Uplink for the most part (aside from maybe one fan-made project) was unique in its time in its approach to a hacking game based on portrayal of the flashy and ludicrous side of hacking in pop culture/media, rather than the more dry, line-by-line reality of computer security itself. It has a surprising amount of depth despite its somewhat simplistic and dated exterior by today's standards, and over the years has become somewhat of a cult classic.

Introversion Software, the developers of this gem, have a tendency to reward experimentation in their games, and the game's ultimately simple enough (mostly reliant on timing more than anything else for difficulty) gameplay is such that you will likely determine your own strategy for how to play Uplink naturally. This guide is just included as a courtesy and general guideline of what someone who's been playing for probably 100 hours over the past decade has managed to come up with.

Future revisions -- IRL time permitting -- may include basic walkthroughs on missions and modding. A tutorial on basic bank hacking has just been added (as of 8-31-2015, anyway)!

I hope this guide helps! Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.

-Ed Itor I, Earl of Haxington Court (arbayer2)

Unnecessary Disclaimer for Funsies

This guide does not teach you how to actually hack real-world computer systems. I'm too much of an idiot to know how that works. See my attempts at humor below for details.

This game does not teach you how to actually hack real-world computer systems either. I'm not enough of an idiot to not know the difference between the game and reality.

I mean, really, what self-respecting corporation would hire someone who thinks changing their International Academic Database dossier to read "manliest eyebrows in the solar system" as a qualification is a good idea? Well... maybe "Combs 'R Us"... but that'd probably be it.

This game is... kind of... like the hacking in Swordfish. You should watch Swordfish. (You probably shouldn't watch Swordfish, unless you like translucent plasticy-looking UIs, fake typing and Halle Berry. Your Modem May Vary.)

This game is fun, though, and is among the best games in the hacking genre. I hope this guide helps you enjoy Uplink for what it is: a Hollywood hacking simulator.

Oh, and another thing: what the hell are GigaQuads?

Also, this guide is meant for the vanilla (unmodded) version of the game available from retail or Steam. That said, Onlink (a neato total conversion mod with a ton of features), if you can find it, is really awesome.

Section 1 - Getting Started

1. Create a new account (username, password). Go through the Uplink registration process (Gateway assignment, etc.) If you're playing the retail version, you'll be prompted to enter in the correct authorization code prompted by the game provided via a physical code card (woo-hoo, feelies!), but in the Steam version this has been removed.

2. Take the tutorial! It's an extremely useful guide for those new to the game, and to experienced players it's a good way to refresh your knowledge of basic hacking and data theft. On top of that, go ahead and visit InterNIC. This step makes your life as a hacker in Uplink much easier and will be covered in detail later on.

Protip: The Uplink Test Machine is also very beneficial, both as a bounce in your bounce path (it's owned by Uplink Corporation, i.e., your employer, so you have admin privileges on it after you beat the tutorial and it's overall a good addition to your link list) and as a defense against passive traces (you can easily hack it to delete connection and bounce logs which are left after each hack you perform).

Also, once you're done with the Tutorial, feel free to delete the file from your gateway; your link to the InterNIC and the Uplink Test Machine will remain and the Tutorial file takes up precious space in your Gateway's storage.

Time to punch some deckzzz

3. Earn money to upgrade your Gateway. You can usually do this through hacking missions, though hacking a bank and exploiting a glitch in the mission request screen are also very lucrative, more on that exploit in the next section.

4. Get used to covering your tracks. Even though the Tutorial didn't require that you go back and delete your logs, it's an extremely important part of any hack. There are many systems on the Internet which not only attempt to actively trace you during a hack, but also try to surreptitiously and passively trace the hack back to your IP address via your bounce path. I'll go into more detail on this in Section 4.

Password Breaker - When opened and started on a machine's password screen, this software will automatically brute-force the correct password and bypass the screen, allowing you access to the machine's secured internal systems.

Trace Tracker - When opened, this software will potentially do some or all of the following:

Monitor your gateway for any starting active traces while hacking a machineDisplay in text the remaining approximate or exact time until an active trace is completedPulse in color relative to the time remaining until an active trace is completedChirp relative to the time remaining until an active trace is completed, in sync with a color pulse

Log Deleter - When opened, this software will temporarily attach itself to your mouse cursor and delete all logs clicked on the target machine, the recoverability of the logs dependent on the version of Log Deleter you are using.

File Copier/Deleter - When opened, this software is pretty obvious in purpose - navigate over to the target machine's file database and choose the file you wish to change.

Decrypter - When opened, this software will decrypt files located on your gateway's internal storage when clicked. Whether or not this is effective depends on the level of encryption on the target file as well as the version of Decrypter you are using.

Decypher - When opened and started on a target machine's Elliptic Curve Encryption security screen (not on all machines), this software will brute-force its way past the cypher, allowing you further access to the target machine.

Voice Analyser - When opened and started on a target phone system (obtaining the phone number of a company's system administrator is required to access their personal phone system), this software will run real-time voiceprint analysis on the person called, allowing you to impersonate their voiceprint and bypass your target machine's voice recognition software in order to gain further access to the target machine. The more expensive version allows you to also save voiceprints for future use.

HUD ConnectionAnalysis - Usually not necessary until later in the game. When installed onto your Gateway, this software will allow you to scan your target machine for hardware defenses, including firewalls, traffic monitors and input proxies and then use either a bypasser or disabler in order to render the defenses temporarily inoperable. This is often required on higher-security target machines in order to effect changes inside them - examples include the International Academic Database, Global Criminal Database, International Social Security Database, company mainframes, banks, etc. A one-time purchase for the life of your current Gateway, available via an icon in the lower-left side of the game's HUD.

Proxy/Monitor/Firewall Disable/Bypass - When connected to a target machine, this software can be optionally activated on the target machine's security systems by opening them, opening the HUD ConnectionAnalysis menu and clicking them onto each hardware defense node. Monitors are present on nearly all machines in the Uplink universe, though proxies/firewalls are not.

Monitors - security systems which scan the target machine for unauthorized intrusions, disabled security systems and general hijinks on your part. If bypassed using Monitor Bypass/Disable of a level equal to or higher than the Monitor's level, an active trace will not begin until all of the target machine's security systems are put out of commission.

Firewalls and Proxies - security systems which prevent the target machine from being changed without authorization. If bypassed using Firewall/Proxy Bypass/Disable, the target machine will be completely open to player tampering, including that of the file server, user login data, links to other machines, console and security logs/settings menu.

Warning: without bypassing Monitor defense nodes, active traces will always start upon breaking the target system's password screen. You can tell if a Monitor's scanning its target machine for intrusions and disabled security systems if a square, red dotted outline is appearing around nodes in the ConnectionAnalysis menu.

In general, these are the most-commonly-used programs with regards to the vast majority of one-off missions in Uplink. With just these, I believe only missions involving LANs, hacker tracing and IP querying are explicitly impossible.

Section 2 - How to Make Quick Money to Upgrade Your Gateway

If I were you, I'd back up my save(s) before attempting this, as it WILL negatively affect your reputation, and it also tends to clutter up your HUD with email messages from the Uplink Corporation and client companies saying stuff like "Your reputation has been downgraded, we'll find someone else more capable of doing the job, we don't take kindly to failure, blahblahblahblah." Though, this may not bother you with a high enough display resolution, your mileage may vary.

Note to self: Uplink's client representatives all apparently seem to be suffering from short-term memory loss. How tragic, dear me. Is it beneath me to exploit this? Absolutely (not). See below.

1. Connect to the Uplink Internal Services Machine. Log in with your Uplink account username + password.

2. Navigate to Missions. Choose a high-paying mission from the Mission List.

3. Click the "Contact" option for the mission in the Mission List.

4. You'll be connected to a contact via chat. Choose the option "Give me all the money now." The contact will either refuse or accept. If they refuse, refuse the mission and try again. Eventually the contact should allow you to take all payment, and when that happens, accept the mission. Yes, it's exploitative, but faster!

5. When that happens, after receiving payment and mission info, abort the mission. The game automatically deletes aborted mission briefings, clearing up the mail clutter you have, but at the expense of your Neuromancer reputation.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have enough money to buy any and all essential programs, all at their highest level available.

7. Navigate to the main menu, then Software and purchase in order from most to least important this early in-game IMO (ideally at the highest levels available, to make the best use of your money, reputation and criminal record):

Password Breaker, File Copier, File Deleter, Trace Tracker, Log DeleterDecrypter, DecypherProxy Bypass, Monitor Bypass, Firewall BypassLog Modifier, Log UndeleterVoice Analyzer, DefragIP Lookup (I personally have not yet used it in-game, though I believe it is necessary for certain types of missions)HUD: ConnectionAnalysisOptional: IRC Client (just in case you're interested in getting into Uplink's IRC channel for yourself, it doesn't really impact the game in any meaningful way except as a communication tool)Dictionary Hacker is ineffective, slow and generally completely pointless; don't purchase it.Avoid purchasing the HUD LAN View and LAN Tools until you need them; LAN Hacking is a really complicated process that you don't need to worry about early in the game.

I think the HUD MapShowTrace is rather useless compared to the Trace Tracker, as (IIRC) you only get visual feedback on ongoing active traces, overlaid on your bounce path in the Connection window, rather than both a visual and auditory feedback from the Trace Tracker (beeps faster the further along a trace is and you can get percent complete/seconds until trace timer over a pulsing background sync'ed with that beep.)

So, it may be useful to you, in which case buy it, but I personally don't like it all that much. Though, HUD MapShowTrace has a benefit in that it doesn't cost any computing power, so that's something to consider if you've got a weak Gateway. But if you're like me, with the most powerful Gateway available, the Trace Tracker is still my favorite and isn't too hardware-intensive.

Alright, so having done all this, your rep is probably in the crapper at this point. Let's fix that! But first, you need to set up a bounce path to connect to your targets while giving you enough time to cover your tracks before you're traced.

Don't worry, your rep can be fixed once you figure out how to hack banks, perform missions involving the International Social Security Database and/or the Int'l Criminal Database and/or LANs, pick your poison.

Ranked from simplest to most complex, ISSD/ICD missions are first, followed by bank hacking, then LANs. Keep this in mind for after you complete Section 4.

We'll go back to the matter of renewing your rep later on in this guide, or at least, in a later guide update, although as a rule of thumb performing any missions improves your reputation in the long run.

Section 3 - Setting up an Optimum Bounce Path

Honestly, this is among the more important things you can do in Uplink that will substantially improve your ability to perform tasks without being traced. In other words, among the more important things you can do in Uplink, period.

The important things to think about are the length of the path (the longer your bounce path is, the more difficult it is for the authorities to trace you actively), access to logs (so that you can break the paper trail leading back to your computer and effectively guarantee your anonymity) and admin privileges (which increase the amount of time any particular trace has to take through a particular system in the bounce path, as well as giving you potential opportunities to intrude other computer systems related to the one in question).

Now, there's more than one optimal bounce path in Uplink, so if my strategy doesn't work as well as another you've found, that's fine! (Actually, in that case, please do share :3) But I've vetted this strategy for years as a path that gives you from about a minute to several of trace delay while also giving you an ultra-convenient place to break the log trail every time you perform a hack in Uplink. I'd say it's a fairly well-known strategy and I hope it helps.

Go to InterNIC and access its link database (may be called something different in-game, will edit next time I play). Add about 50 links (a guideline, not an exact number, YMMV) to your gateway's link list (accessible from the desktop when not connected to any machine in case you need it). Disconnect.Open the Connection Window (large globemap in the game's HUD). Be disconnected from all systems while performing this, so you'll be able to choose your first bounce in the bounce path.Find InterNIC and left-click it, thus adding it to your bounce path as your first bounce.Keep adding bounces to your bounce path (which will show up as a series of marching ant lines connecting large dots) in the longest, most inconvenient way possible, crossing between continents, taking trips to machines located across the globe when there's nearby machines practically in the same neighborhood, until you've connected all machines to your bounce path. If it helps, pretend you're one of the actors in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.On your Connection Window, you should see a button labeled "Save". Click this and this bounce path will be saved to your gateway for recall at any time. You can also overwrite a previous saved bounce path if, for example, you're working on a really complicated multi-system hack and you need to specify a certain series of bounces for, let's say, accessing an Internal Services Machine or database.The "Load" button will also recall said bounce path whenever you need it, which is really helpful if you just need to connect to somewhere specific quickly with a large trace delay. You can also experiment with putting a specific target machine at the end of the saved bounce path, giving you an instant bounce recall to that target when you click Load. This is particularly useful when you've got so many machines in the bounce path that the entire game starts to slow down, which is fairly common even on modern PCs due to the way it was written back in 2001. #bankhacking

Now, this should last you a good while in-game, but there may be machines later in the game you have to connect to for the storyline/whatever your motivation may be which have defense systems in place that are fast enough to active-trace you with 50 bounces if you're not careful.

When that starts happening, immediately double-check that you've broken the log trail from InterNIC, to prevent a successful passive trace (banks love these). Then, afterwards, re-connect to InterNIC and add another group of bounce targets to the 50 as needed. It doesn't matter which ones, as long as InterNIC remains the first bounce.

I'd also suggest that you might add Uplink Corporation's machines closer to the beginning of your bounce path, that way, you might be able to go back in at a later date when you can hack Uplink's systems, whether for the Andromeda storyline or just for gits 'n shiggles and delete even more logs than just those at InterNIC -- just in case you're feeling paranoid.

Section 4 - Why InterNIC is so useful as a first bounce

Now, to fully explain InterNIC's importance to the game, and to provide context for why you should have visited it around the same time you took the tutorial AND added it to your default bounce path as the first bounce.

InterNIC is, essentially, the Uplink universe's answer to ICANN, web domain registrars and search engines in the real world, unless my knowledge of the Interwebs is more terrible than I imagined.

InterNIC is a central link repository for all Internet-connected systems in the game which serves as a public IP lookup service, free to everyone. Ironically, those in charge at InterNIC have a lousy IT guy who doesn't believe in security -- or even doing his job in the first place -- so the only defensive mechanism keeping unauthorized persons around the world out of InterNIC's administrative systems throughout the entire game is a password screen... in which the password never changes and is only eight characters in length.

It may sound laughable... and it is. Try not to let it break immersion. HOWEVER, this is a great opportunity for you, since it gives you probably the easiest-hacked machine in the game as a first bounce, and it has modifiable logs in the admin area, thus giving you a de facto, accessible anytime, opportunity to break the paper trail from any hack in one place.

Not only that, but once you hack InterNIC for the first time you will always have admin privileges on that machine, thus extending the length of time it'll take to be traced through and removing the time-consuming activity of using Password Breaker on the login screen each time, and it's a government-owned machine, making the time to trace even longer. And all because Thy Holiest Sir King IT-Master III, Esq., etc., et al. decided to fall into a coma or black hole right as the events of the game took place.

Just go to the log manager on the target machine's admin section and use the Log Deleter (ideally at the highest level, as lower-level Log Deleters simply blank out logs and can be used forensically by other hackers to catch you later on in the game) to remove all logs involving your IP's admin logins and reconnections to the second machine in your bounce path.

Congratulations! You're (probably) untraceable! Cue fanfare and beer. Just be absolutely sure to clear these logs after every single hack. You don't need to clear any other logs relating to other users, and in fact, this may screw over your chances of completing certain missions later on, so only delete yours to ensure you're protecting only yourself.

However, be sure that when you're deleting logs, that you don't delete the "IP connected/disconnected" logs. All machines connecting to InterNIC, whether legally or no, leave these logs and by deleting a connection log like this it would look suspicious, since disconnection logs are obviously only added AFTER you disconnect, making them impossible to remove without reconnecting. See the problem there? Having no connection log AND a disconnection log?

I'm not sure if this impacts gameplay at all, but one would think it's probably a terrible idea. It's easy to avoid regardless.

Section 5 - Bank Hacking, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love eBanking

Required software:

Trace Tracker - You're going to need some situational awareness of the time you have to do this and whether or not you've already been traced, fool. I recommend the maximum level available before HUD: MapShowTrace, since you get way more information than that upgrade for probably less.

HUD: Connection Analysis (20000c) - required to bypass security preventing user-initiated account-to-account or bank-to-bank transfers.

Log Deleter v.4.0 (4000c) - if you have any version below 4.0 you will always be caught, it's unavoidable.

Proxy Bypass v.5.0 (20000c) - all banks have proxy security. Required to delete transfer logs at target bank and to make transactions.

Password Breaker (0c) - duh. Required to get past initial login/administrative security wall.

Decypher v.3.0 (8000c) - Required to bypass administrative security after the login screen.

Voice Analyser v1.0 (5000c) - Required to obtain the bank server's admin's voice sample, obtainable via his phone system. Info available at the bank's parent company's public access server. Version 2.0 allows you to save voice samples for repeat intrusions.

Total of minimum equipment investment required for bank hacking: at least 57,000 credits.

It pays off, I promise.

So, both as a way of counteracting the consequences of exploiting mission handshakes (those awkward chats with the client rep which allow you to ask for all payment in advance) AND as a way of quickly obtaining cash and Neuromancer rep, bank hacking is a lucrative and only moderately complex process which makes cents AND that pays dividends at 100% annual APR over quarterly- okay enough money jokes

Here's how to get started on the whole process. Keep in mind that timing is of the utmost importance in these operations -- if you spend too long between transferring funds, deleting logs or attempt to do a bank hack while performing other time-sensitive missions at the same time, chances are you might face the Game Over screen and a deleted save file due to being actively (or passively) traced. The main way to avoid this is to pick up an optimal sense of timing for each operation, maximize your bounce efficiency and write things down on paper so you don't forget them in the middle of everything.

The Setup:

1. Find your target bank. Go to InterNIC and look up every bank in the game and their parent companies' servers. In order to hack any bank (except Uplink International Bank, which is unhackable because THEY'RE YOUR EMPLOYERS) you need access to the administrator's phone system to make a voice print. Go to the target bank company's Public Access Server, press the plus sign next to the listing for the Admin's phone number and a link to their Phone System should appear on your desktop's connection list.

2. Open the Voice Analyser and keep it idling. Make a bounced call (actually not necessary, although it's a good rule of thumb anyway) to the admin's Phone System. The admin will pick up, get really confused and hang up flustered. This will give the software enough timbre, pitch and probably other voice-related metadata to initiate their voice on the target bank's Voiceprint ID system. Insert NSA joke here.

3.Create a local account on the target bank's server. Account login information is largely useless, just remember to note down the server's IP address, your account number and, I'd suggest, keeping your password short so you're not entering in a 32-character pass like 6 times in a couple of minutes. Even a single character works fine, I'm pretty sure nobody hacks your banks in the game (perhaps unfortunately). Disconnect after this, delete logs at InterNIC, etc.

4. If you've got IP Probe purchased/installed, run that on the bank's server. It may help you strategize but is otherwise completely optional. Set up a substantially-long bounce path (suggestion: as large as you can handle, but I'm paranoid) and connect to the target server.

5. Navigate to the Administration page and use the Voice Analyser on the Voiceprint ID System screen first. As it doesn't cause any active traces, it's an ideal first step on hacking this high-security system.

6. Use Decypher on the Elliptic Encryption Cypher screen, and then Password Breaker on the password login screen.

7. Once past login security measures, immediately go to the admin section. Find the list of user account login information and write it all down, usernames and passwords, on a sheet of paper in a way such that you won't be confused when referencing later. QUICKLY disconnect, go to InterNIC, log in and delete all bounce logs there. Disconnect from InterNIC.

8. Connect to the bank again, again bounced. This time, log in with each user's login information and look at their balance information. If they're a high roller, congratulations! It's probably all been worth the effort. Note this user account and continue down the list until each user's been noted. You no longer need the Voice Analyser, go ahead and close that if need be.

The Withdrawal:

1. Connect to the target bank again bounced and log into the first significantly lucrative user account on your list. For first-time bank hackers, I suggest hacking only one bank account at a time before breaking the log chain and checking for anonymity/rep improvement, but once you get used to the operation you can do several at once.

Pro-tip: all banks in the game allow loans. Some users have not taken out any loans. Use that to your advantage if you really feel like being an asshole a shrewd business person, sir/madam.


2. Open the HUD: Connection Analysis window which displays the presence of Monitors, Firewalls and Proxy defenses and use the appropriate disablers/bypassers (you need at least the Proxy Bypass v5.0, remember) on each of them starting with the Monitor Bypass/Disable (to disable the server's defenses undoing your bypass/disable software, which sometimes happens). Note that bypassers are not noticed immediately when used to log into the server proper, so if you're considering purchasing these anti-defense software go for those if you can spare the money. Even though that's not likely the case if you're robbing the bank, it saves you money in the long run, eh?

3. Navigate to the target user's Transfer Funds screen. This screen will ask you for account transfer information to initiate the funds transfer. If you had failed to perform 6A by this point, this process would not occur since if I'm not mistaken the Proxy and (maybe?) Firewall on a bank's server have to be disabled to even allow user-initiated transfers between bank servers in the first place. This information includes the current bank's IP address (should be already filled in? will check), destination bank IP address, current user account number and destination account number. Enter this information in on the transfer screen. This is where your own local bank account on this bank's server comes in handy, since it compartmentalizes the bank transfer logs into one place instead of two. All of this information should be available on your Gateway's Accounts screen (accessible via the dollar-sign icon on the taskbar) if you forget it.

4. Initiate the transfer. If you entered the information right, you should get a message stating such. If not, re-enter the information and ensure you've bypassed/disabled the server's network defenses. Once you get the all-clear, the timer is ticking, proceed immediately to step 5A.

5A. Immediately return to the target account's main screen, then navigate to the transfer statements screen. Delete the statement detailing the transfer you just made to your local bank account (should show your local account number in the transfer log).

5B. Log out of the target bank account and log into your local bank account. Navigate over to the transfer statements screen and delete the corresponding transfer log from the target account. Disconnect ASAP.

5C. Immediately connect to InterNIC, log into the administrative area and delete your bounce logs to the bank. Disconnect.

You're done. Wait a good couple of minutes (I suggest logging into the Uplink Internal Services Machine and checking the News section for news of your bank hack to hit the streets) to ensure you weren't passively traced. If you see the bank hack show up on the News screen (and see your Neuromancer rating shoot up via an email a few seconds later),


Rinse and repeat after that point. Keep in mind it's all a matter of timing, so while it may be prudent to backup your save files so they don't get wiped on a failed attempt it doesn't take forever to catch on.

There you go, you now know how to make money the fastest way in the game! Do something useful with those millions and buy me a beer, yeah?

Also, quick pro-tip: The Accounts screen not only shows you balance information, it selects the account you draw from when you purchase upgrades. Don't fuck up like I have multiple times before and choose your Uplink Int'l Bank account when your target's local account has all the funds in it, you'll find yourself in a world of fines (with IPs/account numbers to potentially wealthy creditor bank accounts included if you're willing to risk it).

Useful Links

Numero Uno: The Ultimate Uplink Guide! It's a classic staple of the Uplink player community and has been around about as long as Uplink itself. A great comprehensive guide on how to play Uplink. I consulted this gem quite a bit when coming up with both this guide and my strategy for playing the game in general.

Numero Dos: Hacking your first bank, a Steam Community Guide by Roller on Steam

Numero Tres: Early Game Bank Robbery, a Steam Community Guide by MestreLion on Steam

Numero Four: lseths' Uplink Let's Play, a pretty insightful YouTube series