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How to Infiltrate a Hostile Alliance - Sins of a Solar Spymaster #5

Posted Sun, Mar 29, 2009 by The Mittani

I recently gave a talk as part of EVE University's 5th birthday celebration on the topic of how newer players can get involved in espionage far more easily than other aspects of the game. One of the questions which kept coming up was a request for rules or guidelines on how to infiltrate hostile alliances - the basics of how one gets in, gets the job done and gets out. Similarly, I was asked by a number of aspiring corporate officers about the basics of the counterintelligence game - how to find and out hostile agents. While there are no hard and fast rules on either side of this divide, the example of one of my now-retired agents and his infiltration of Veritas Immortalis illustrates a number of lessons about the spy game.

Blitter had no experience in the espionage game. He approached me out of the blue with a difficult question: Having just purchased a 38m skillpoint character with a 'clean' corp history (i.e., not affiliated with an agent's home alliance) capable of piloting capital ships, should he put the character in Goonfleet - ruining it for any espionage use in the process - or take a crack at infiltrating our enemies? This wasn't an easy question to answer. It was October of 2006, at a time when Goonswarm was living in Red Alliance's home system of C-J6; we had no conquerable space of our own, and the bare handful of capital ships our group of determined newbies could muster could barely be called a 'capfleet'. On the other hand, a capital ship character was the opposite of the stereotype of a goon agent, who our enemies conceived of as a recently-created newbie alt with no standings or employment history. There didn't seem to be much harm in giving it a shot, so I encouraged Blitter to infiltrate one of the Southern Coalition alliances which were arrayed against us at the time.

As an espionage agency, we were lucky that we had been able to plan in advance for the war against the Southern Coalition. Months before Goonswarm moved in to live with Red Alliance in Insmother we began seeding our future enemies with spies: Veritas Immortalis, Knights of the Southerncross, Interstellar Starbase Syndicate and Lotka Volterra had each been thoroughly infiltrated long before we made the cross-galaxy journey from our motherland in Syndicate to Insmother. Blitter acquired his capital agent at just the right time - we were about to try to seize Scalding Pass from Veritas Immortalis, the first target in what would rapidly develop into the first Great War.

When Blitter approached Veritas, he wasn't entirely sure how to go about it. The invasion of Scalding Pass had just begun; paranoia was rampant. In the end, he opted for complete openness: he made a post on Veritas' forum in their recruitment section, mentioned that he owned an Archon carrier, had an incredible amount of skillpoints, and was willing to help out with logistics in the fight against the goon hordes. The response was immediate and positive; within a day, Blitter was in Dragons of Redemption, one of the primary corporations in Veritas. At the time we were both surprised by how quickly Veritas jumped on him, but in hindsight it makes sense: he was offering them exactly what they would want in an ideal recruit, and it seemed impossible to Veritas that a capital pilot could be a GIA agent. The best way to get into a hostile organization is to keep your story simple and tell people what they want to hear. No convoluted explanation or fancy stories needed: take the direct approach.

What could Veritas have done differently? First, they should have held their potential capital recruit to a higher standard of scrutiny. Capital pilots are privy to far more strategic information than the regular membership, so you must be especially certain they are not spies. They could have checked his employment history and contacted the CEOs or known members of his prior corporations for references; had they done this, they may have found that the character had been sold, and that the 'Lenutza' applying to Veritas was not the same 'Lenutza' as before. They could have investigated the character sales section of the Eve-Online forums looking for evidence of a potential sale. At the very least, they could have resisted the urge to believe what they wanted to believe, and held Blitter in a 'trial period' of sorts where his access and information had been limited. But, they didn't.
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