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Sins of a Solar Spymaster #19: Hacking New Eden – Myth and Reality

Posted Thu, Jul 09, 2009 by The Mittani

EVE 01

Beyond the bleeding edge of the metagame, in the whispered realms of myth, supposition and paranoia, exist the wizards of EVE: the hackers. Not a day passes in New Eden without some foul event being credited to their misdeeds. Depending on who you listen to, hackers are simultaneously responsible for corp thefts, account seizure, alliances being disbanded, random items being misplaced, and the Icelandic banking crisis. Who are these people, and how much influence on EVE do they really have?

When I got into the spy business around March of 2006, one of the first things the nascent GIA did was attempt to gauge exactly how prevalent hacking was in alliance politics. This was a drive primarily fueled by my own ignorance; knowing nearly as much about code as I do home decorating, I assumed that surely hackers were a dime a dozen. It seemed that every other forum drama thread referred to them. But I swiftly found that while EVE is a magnet for coders of all kinds, the "0.0 EVE Hacker" may as well be a Yeti. Yet belief in hackers meddling in 0.0, much like belief in elves in certain island nations with a penchant for geothermal power who shall remain nameless, is persistent. Like a communist conspiracy, discovering no evidence of their existence is simply a sign of the subtlety of the quarry.

They certainly do exist, but the vast majority appear to focus on hacking the game client, running bots or devising ways to steal isk. Simply botters, macroers, and exploiters - not glamorous meddlers in grand politics. Where were the hackers who pulled the strings in 0.0? Where were the hackers who played the spy game? In my entire time in EVE, I have confirmed the existence of only one (though there are rampant rumors of another, who remains anonymous). Six months passed before I encountered him. It began innocuously enough. A "rival" spymaster appeared, offering a variety of espionage services to the highest bidder on the main alliance forum. Kugutsumen, as he called himself, was almost immediately made into a laughingstock. Espionage in EVE is primarily a nationalistic enterprise (at least, in that forum) and outright offers of intelligence for isk were one of the oldest and most effortless scams in the book.

Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut and refrained from trolling Kugutsumen, because he swiftly made himself my nemesis. At first he contacted me via AIM, offering his services - but since I never pay for intel (and Goonswarm was chronically out of isk, regardless of inconvenient principles) that went nowhere. Then he began to turn the screws.

In September 2006, Goonswarm was in Insmother, living out of Red Alliance stations and warring with the Southern Coalition. The primary force behind the Southern Coalition was Lotka Volterra, an alliance formed by Shinra, M. Corp and UK Corp. Mirroring our later cultural successes in swaying defectors such as Haargoth Agamar, one of Lotka Volterra's directors, Osmodious, had 'flipped' and become a GIA sleeper agent. Using his access, we began to monitor Lotka.org's director forums. This gave GS and RA an incredible strategic advantage in the war, as we knew in advance how much support LV was willing to provide its allied partners (Slim to none, as Veritas Immortalis and Knights of the Southerncross belatedly discovered), where they intended to build future outposts, and how willing their leadership was to 'go to the mat' with GS and RA.
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