A short screed on Pirating as a philosophy in X:R
Pirating in X:R can be broken down into two interconnected groups: looting & boarding
Traditional pirates (c15-c18) had two goals: first to make money (to keep their crew happy); second to gain better ship(s) that they could then sell off as 'prizes' or use to increase their fleet strength.They would generally keep anything they could immediately use, ransom (or sell as slaves) the rest of the crew and/or passengers, sell off the excess cargo & keep or scuttle the hull.
Pirates of that age should not be confused with Privateers: the latter were legitimate privately-owned ships carrying 'Letters of Marque' that justified & legitimised their actions on behalf of their country's government (along with associated legitimate prize rewards awarded by said government) towards Hostile Powers designated by their Government; the former were purely freebooters, not generally associated with any government, country or any other power (although pirates sometimes offered their services as privateers in exchange for pardons + loot: eg Edward Teach (Blackbeard) became the legitimate British Governor of Jamaica for a while). If you are interested in further reading try ISBN-13: 978-1602396241
By contrast modern (c20/21) 'pirates' usually ransom their prize (crew, passengers, ship, cargo) due to the logistics difficulty of keeping & utilising such a prize for themselves, plus modern communications & surveillance advantages make holding onto a sizeable ship difficult..
In X:R we can currently ignore crew, passengers & morale, so it's up to <player> to prioritise cash, cargo or hulls as they see fit..
So, WHY do you want to pirate other ships? Do not dismiss this question!
Do you need their ships (hulls)? If so, what will you do with them? Sell them for cash or put them to use in your own fleet?
Do you need their rare and/or expensive cargo?
Has a certain faction upset you so much (or you've upset them) that you want to get back at them (revenge)?
Are you a collector who wants one of every ship available to own, or are you a badass who just likes pirating no matter the consequences?
The above statements will (hopefully) clarify your thoughts on how to go about pirating.
Internal: If <target> is non-hostile you can dock. Enter the 'shed' (the small covered structure directly in front of you, often containing lockers) & at the back, to the right, there is a shield control panel available for you to hack using the craftable Security thingy. If you successfully hack this the ship's shields will be disabled for a time <5mins? Needs checking> (all the main shields plus most of the turret's shields on a warship). There's a similar panel elsewhere to disable turrets, I think.. but you probably won't want to hack the Repair panel in the 'shed'! Shield hacking will significantly reduce the time required to board <target> if that's your objective, as you can immediately start reducing hull strength when you're ready rather than fighting your way through shields first..
External: The Trojan (hacker) drone can disable shields, engines or turrets, or cause the ship to drop cargo depending upon which hack points you successfully complete. If used /prior/ to Yisha's boarding demands it will take at least 4 or 5 successes to hack <target> (Yisha only requires 1 success per demand). I find the minigame difficult & irritating so I don't generally bother, but others may have more success here..
If you want the hulls for your own use
You'll want to intercept <target> & destroy their engines/Jump drive as quickly as possible while out of range of any hostile stations or patrol ships to avoid 'helpful' friendlies destroying your prize & boarding crew. The TO DLC adds a 'Constrictor missile' (only available from TO sectors' Arms Dealers) which disables boost for a time when (if) it hits.. full operational details for this missile are not currently available. Another method is to mine the engines with the Traitor drone, then remote-explode the mines when the ship moves to a convenient spot*..
*I'm unsure of the range of remote-detonation. IZ certainly, but it may extend beyond that with the reworking of game range mechanics as described elsewhere <Sparky please provide link>..
A Rahanas freighter is an easy boarding target on paper only: its hull is so weak that a slight miscalculation or stray shot may destroy the ship with your marines onboard, & it has so few defences that its main cash value other than its cargo (its drones) are at great risk of being lost to Yisha's boarding demands (destroy Drone Bay). If possible choose a Sanahar over a Rahanas Container: the San hull is stronger, defences are better & (slightly) more numerous & its speed & maneuverability is much improved over the earlier model. Once you have the technique, it's just as easy to board despite the slightly increased BR (see boarding guides linked here).
If you want the cargo
You can hack <target> using the Trojan drone, or board them, or shoot them. If you hack or shoot them, them be aware that ejected cargo containers have a 'lifetime'; if your pickup drones don't get there in time the looted containers will self-destruct.. Therefore, make sure you have a capital ship with suitable cargo storage type and cargo drones nearby & available before you start this procedure!
With v4 comes the ability to destroy individual container srtorage areas, just like on a statiion. These will not be targettable; you'll have to figure them out for yourself in a similar way top the Arawn's vulnerable areas..
In order to get your capital ship to collect cargo containers, you'll need to enter Cargo Collect mode (Enter-1-2), after which. you'll be able to launch tags at containers within 0.75km of the Skunk (just like in Mining mode). This will trigger your suitable sqadded capital to send cargo drones out to pick up the loot and return it to the capital. Best attempted while not getting pummelled by station or ship guns! Unlike within Long Range Scanner mode, Cargo Collect mode does not offer a scanner except in a minimal way, so in order to make finding containers easier, you'll want to set your radar to Battle Mode (shift+m) with no text overlay (shift+r) and avoid backdrops that pollute the colours out of the Event Monitor (e.g. the sun while in Glaring Truth). Battle Mode highlights cargo containers as single dots and after they're tagged, the dot turns into a nice little plus sign, letting you know you're being a good little pirate
If you want the cash
CHECK FIRST using your scanner & target information system to see if there's a market for the ware(s) <target> is carrying! If the wares are unsalable (e.g. the weapon turret market is often saturated) then a lot of profit is lost immediately. HOWEVER you can still sell any ship with its cargo to a convenient shipyard to recoup at least some of the cargo's value* REMEMBER that you can always transfer excess unsalable wares to a ship that's going to be sold, provided it has an intact drone bay..
*Probably its average value as defined in the Encyclopaedia, modified by <player's> rep with the shipyard, but there may be a loss; I haven't checked
Pick up tips from the above, then go ahead & do what you want; you won't listen to me anyway
Boarding & Reputation loss
Rep loss currently (as of v3.61) appears to be calculated mostly by the number of hits you land that do hull damage. There may be other factors, such as comms traffic etc.
Therefore you want to do the max hull damage (to take <target's> BR down to a number you can handle) in as few shots as possible. If <target> is initially neutral to you, or you're confident, Traitor drones' mines are ideal for this (after you've done the initial hacking as mentioned above): they'll instantly take out most critical systems (& a fair amount of hull on most freighters) in effectively 1 shot! Plus you can use them concurrently or consecutively to set off all planted mines at once
Once you've boarded <target>, as always transfer a 5* engineer to it ASAP. Not only will this improve its speed as its engines are repaired, but it'll repair the hull & turrets too (quicker if you're OOZ). A fully repaired hull sells for a fair bit more than an immediate capture, & you can recall the engineer (& captain if you've given it one) before selling the ship if necessary