Content Type: Gaming Guides
“In this world, almost everything is connected to a local network. And that means it can be hacked.”
In the world of Cyberpunk 2077 hacking is not just some side feature or a one-time side quest moment of entertainment: it’s an entire way to approach the challenges that the game will throw at you. It’s a set of menacing skills that can help you take out your enemies en masse without them getting so much as a chance to touch you.
Hacking in Cyberpunk 2077 becomes a unique experience even if you make Intelligence Attribute and its Skills just a small part of your build. However, becoming a dedicated Netrunner is a whole another level of fun in itself.
In this guide we will discuss how you can level your hacking abilities (including differences between Breach Protocol and Quickhacking Skills), how to successfully complete Breach Protocol mini-games, as well as what Quickhacks are and what they can do for your build.
If you want some help planning your character build, a good place to start might be our Ultimate Character Guide. On the other hand, if you want to learn more about Cyberdecks (a type of Operating System Cyberware) available for your Netrunner, as well as other Cyberware available in the game — check out our Cyberware Guide!
But, if you wanted to dive deep into how to improve your hacking abilities, how to excel at the Breach Protocol, and what kinds of Quickhacks you should equip on your Cyberdeck, you have come to the right place!
Ready? Let’s jack in.
How to Level Hacking Skills
Let’s start with the foundation of Hacking in Cyberpunk 2077: the Intelligence Attribute. It’s one of five character Attributes available in the game, and investing Attribute Points into it will be critical for you to be able to progress your two hacking skills (we will discuss them in the next section). Your two hacking skills will only be able to go as high up as your Intelligence level.
Also, you will need your Intelligence Attribute to unlock higher-level Perks. We discuss how Perks work in this guide.
If you will be investing into Intelligence Attribute, you can be assured that every point will go towards improving your hacking capabilities.
Each level you put into this attribute will:
- Increase cyberdeck RAM capacity by 4%;
- Increase quickhack damage by 0.5%;
- Increase quickhack duration by 1%.
This attribute is central to a full Netrunner build, but if you only plan to have it as a side skill (or you are low-level and haven’t decided yet), you can already do quite a bit just by having a powerful Cyberdeck, an Operating System Cyberware.
Thing is, you only need high Street Cred to buy high-tier cyberdecks from a ripperdoc, so nobody will stop you from uploading Quickhacks left and right even if you are low in this attribute.
Breach Protocol and Quickhacking: Hacking Skills
There are two hacking skills in Cyberpunk 2077: Breach Protocol and Quickhacking. We discuss all of the actions that level your skills in detail in this guide (remember that you level Skills by performing related actions), but the system can get confusing very fast, so we will distinguish between the two in a simple manner.
Breach Protocol is leveled whenever you play the hacking mini-game (to reduce RAM cost, to decrypt a shard, to mine currency from a vending machine, etc.), open doors or perform actions that require Intelligence Attribute (in dialogue, for example), and Quickhack Devices (PCs, TVs, doors, cameras, etc.). You won’t get XP from performing the same quickhack on the same device repeatedly.
Quickhacking levels every time you hack a target (your opponent, that is), stacking if you upload multiple different quickhacks at the same time.
Don’t worry: while the two are separate, you will likely see them level together as you perform a variety of hacking procedures. It’s always handy to Breach Protocol and reduce RAM cost, create distraction with the TV as you upload Quickhacks onto your targets from behind a cover, or just Quickhack and upload AoE daemons on everything you see to cause maximum chaos.
Leveling the two Skills will come with different bonuses, however, since Breach Protocol’s Progression Rewards mostly deal with Breach Protocol efficiency, components acquired in mining, and RAM capacity. Level 20 will unlock a trait Perk that increases the breach time significantly.
Quickhacking will also improve your RAM, but it will otherwise focus on Quickhack duration and cooldown times. Level 20 will unlock a trait Perk that increases your RAM recovery rate significantly.
Cyberdeck and RAM
There is a uniting feature to all Quickhacks you will perform: and that’s your Cyberdeck (installed as a Cyberware into your Operating System slot) and its RAM capacity.
Think of RAM as your hacking stamina: you use it with every Quickhack you perform and it regenerates units every 60 seconds. All Cyberdecks will come with some preinstalled device hacks and important special abilities (improving your RAM recovery, cost of Quickhacks, damage you deal, and even serving as a defense against enemy Netrunners). Check out our Operating System guide for the full list of available options.
While you can still jack into devices and decipher shards without a Cyberdeck, you will need it for remote breach and Quickhacking both targets and devices.
We will quickly summarize the areas the two Perk trees deal with in this section. If you want to do some planning for your Perks and know all of the options, check out our Perk guide.
Just like with Skills, the two skill-tied Perk trees will offer unique benefits: Breach Protocol Perks will give you unique Daemons for AoE upload and improve effectiveness of your Breach Protocol actions.
Quickhacking Perks, meanwhile, will improve your Quickhacks (damage, duration, cost, cooldown, etc.), unlock higher rarities of Quickhack crafting, and give you a little bit of defense against enemy Netrunners.
Breach Protocol and Its Mini-Game
Almost all Cyberdecks come with Breach Protocol pre-installed: with it you can ICEpick to decrease RAM cost of your Quickhacks or upload AoE daemons to affect targets and devices nearby.
Breach Protocol actions as well as deciphering any shards (to learn something secret about a Side Job you are performing, for example) will come with the Breach Protocol Mini-Game that might seem a little confusing at first (perhaps that’s how you found this guide to begin with), but trust us — once you understand its simple basic functionality you will be only limited by the Buffer Size of your deck and your breach time.
How Does the Breach Protocol Mini-Game Work?
Performing Breach Protocol will open up an interface with a Code Matrix at the left, which is a grid populated by letter-number combinations such as “55,” “BD,” “1C,” and “E9,” called “characters.”
In the top center is your Buffer — that’s where you will see characters you combine in order, as you create a sequence of numbers.
Next place you should look is “Sequence Required to Upload” section, where you will see the code combination that should be present inside your Buffer in order for a specific action to occur (to ICEpick an enemy, decrypt a shard, or datamine a vending machine, for example).
How Do I Put Together a Sequence?
You will input characters into your Buffer by selecting them inside your Code Matrix. Here’s the thing: you can only select characters within the highlighted line, which will alternate between being a row and a column every time you select a character, centered on the one you just selected.
As soon as you click on a character inside the Code Matrix, you will start the timer. But, you can plan your moves for as long as you need to prior to that.
Sounds confusing? Don’t worry: we will walk you through an example step by step.
Let us demonstrate how uploading ICEpick through Breach Protocol would look like on a low level character. (You will be able to do this one with your starter Cyberdeck on any target you choose by scanning them and selecting “Breach Protocol.”)
Let’s look at this specific example:
The sequence we need to have in our Buffer is 55 55 BD 55. We start with a top row highlighted. As soon as we pick something in that row, the line will become a column that includes the character we just selected. When we select our second character, the line will become a row again, which will include the character we just selected.
Take a moment and see if you can plan out a valid way of putting together the sequence required to upload ICEpick. Usually there are multiple solutions. Then, follow our screenshots below to see one of the valid solutions.
In this case we can only put 4 characters into our Buffer (this limit can be increased by installing a better Cyberdeck) and that’s the length of our required sequence, so we are done as soon as we put in the last character.
In many other cases you encounter the sequences might be shorter, or you might have a much longer Buffer. In those cases you can keep going until you fill up your Buffer selection or the timer runs out.
Here’s why that’s important: you can upload multiple sequences at the same time, as long as their sequence appears somewhere inside your Buffer. Characters within sequences can overlap.
Here’s an example: you need to input 1C 55 E9 for ICEpick and E9 BD 55 for Mass Vulnerability. However, your Buffer size is 5 — you can only put together 5 characters before you run out of space. What do you do to upload both of them? Well, if you can put together 1C 55 E9 BD 55, you will have both sequences present in your Buffer and both actions will go through!
Let’s try a more difficult example: if you need to input 1C BD E9 for ICEpick, BD E9 DB for Mass Vulnerability, and E9 BD 1C for Turret Shutdown, how can you accommodate all three with a Buffer Size of 6? A sequence of 1C BD E9 BD 1C will have all three sequences.
In order to perform Quickhacks you will need them installed on your Cyberdeck. All Cyberdecks will have some device hacks pre-installed (all will have actions like Distract, Remote Activation, Take Control, and Steal Data), but will come with 2-6 additional slots for you to insert a variety of Quickhacks which range from Uncommon to Legendary ranks.
Higher rank will improve RAM cost, occasionally improve duration, and will often come with additional effects.
You can visit a Netrunner shop to browse a selection of these. If you complete T-Bug’s little Side Job, The Gift, you will get a chance to visit one of these shops and will get a free Quickhack, the “Ping”.
Bit of advice: one of the great ways to acquire Legendary Quickhacks without purchasing them is with a Datamine Virtuoso Perk acquired at Intelligence Attribute level 12; you just need to perform quite a bit of datamining, but you can eventually get every Quickhack you might want.
Quickhacks will come in four categories, defined by their purpose. You will also notice that Cyberdecks and Perks have special bonuses for different categories: improving damage of Stealth Quickhacks, or duration of Combat Quickhacks, for example.
The four Quickhack categories are:
- Stealth Quickhacks
- Combat Quickhacks
- Control Quickhacks
- Ultimate Quickhacks
(The following lists were adapted from Cyberpunk 2077 – The Complete Official Guide by Piggyback.)
You will probably use Stealth Quickhacks when trying to remain unnoticed: deafening your targets, wiping their memory, revealing all targets and devices on the local network.
Just like the name implies, these Quickhacks are of great assistance during active combat. Unlike Control Quickhacks, these will deal direct damage and inflict a variety of Status Effects on your opponents.
These Quickhacks are also of great use in combat, but these focus on significantly disabling your opponents. These can prove to be an excellent strategy against opponents that deal a lot of damage, mini-bosses, and bosses. Some of these can be useful for stealth tactics, but are a riskier option than Stealth Quickhacks.
These are your instant-kill, suicidal, and non-lethal takedown Quickhacks. Beware that their high power comes with a high RAM cost and long cooldown.
Still, these can be amazing in eliminating more powerful opponents, and System Reset could prove useful for completing quests like CyberPsycho Sightings, where non-lethal takedown of a powerful opponent comes with greater rewards.
(Note on Legendary Suicide Quickhack: panic can be inflicted with the Legendary Synapse Burnout Quickhack [see Combat Quickhacks list].)