SELECTIVE AVAILABILITY – SIGGY EDITION

2016-04-07

Selective What?

When the Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed for use by the United States, there was a feature known as Selective Availability. When turned on, this would intentionally degrade the accuracy of the public GPS signal while retaining the accuracy of the military GPS signal.  The idea behind Selective Availability was to deny adversaries of the U.S. the use of GPS while allowing friendly forces to continue using them.  This backfired horribly during the Gulf War, when there were not enough military GPS receivers to supply U.S. forces. Instead, family members had to send civilian receivers to assist.  First you go to war with the Army you have, then you hope your family sends you a better Army. Selective Availability was subsequently turned off for the duration of the war.

Besides the impact to the military, the commercial market was also hesitant to adopt GPS because of Selective Availability, but the need for GPS was there.  Many people may not know this due to the GPS nomenclature, but its purpose is actually providing Precision Navigation and Timing (PNT).  In fact, timing is every bit as critical to the commercial market as navigation, as communication systems, electrical power grids, and financial networks all rely on precision timing for synchronization and operational efficiency.

Because the U.S. Government wanted GPS to be adopted worldwide, and also because people figured out how to get around Selective Availability by calculating the signal differentials anyway, Selective Availability ended in 2000 and that was the period when you saw the availability of GPS devices explode on the market.

Siggy Availability

For those not familiar with w-space living, your connections change on a daily basis.  Therefore, to an organization living in a wormhole, an external mapping tool keeping track of all the connections between various wormholes is not just nice, it is required.  These tools are the lifeline of a w-space corp and provide a plethora of critical information, including pilots online and signed in, what ships they are flying, their connections, and mapped signatures in each hole.

Siggy is one of the most popular mapping tools used by many wormhole-based corporations on an ISK-based subscription model, and it was the tool of choice for Hole Violence (HV), the Elite* wormhole PVP squad (formerly?) of Goonswarm Federation.

Now, some of you might have possibly potentially heard that some tiny kerfuffle is occurring in Eve Online right now.  While the drums of war beat in k-space, HV was more busy celebrating the loss of Clay Hakaari from its ranks.  Unfortunately, their celebration was short-lived as HV’s access to Siggy was mysteriously lost in the last week of March, inconveniencing HV members for a few days.  No others have reported outages with Siggy.

siggynoaccess1

Is Siggy enacting its own variant of Selective Availability to hamper HV activities, or did HV just forget to pay upkeep for Siggy?  Dod Kalm, CEO of HV, provided the following information (edited only for formatting):

TMC: Can you tell me in your own words why you think HV does not have access to Siggy?

Dod Kalm: So we’ve had suspicions for a long time that Siggy is run by Hard Knocks, who has connections to Pandemic Legion.  Somewhat recently I’d gotten confirmations of these suspicions.  I evemailed Jack Tronic [TMC Note: Siggy’s customer support character] regarding the issues over a week ago and still haven’t had a response, so at this point it’s very clearly intentional.

TMC: If this is true, why do you think PL is more interested in denying HV access to Siggy as opposed to using it as an information source?

Dod Kalm: I’m guessing they decided it was more damaging to us to pull our mapping software instead of using it against us.  The timing lines up well with when we think the CO2 backstab was beginning to be planned.

TMC: To be clear, the bill is paid, right?  Empires have collapsed as a result of an unpaid bill, after all.

Dod Kalm: Yes, we paid less than a week before it was pulled.  Also, if it was a billing issue we would have heard back from them by now.

TMC: Final question: If your suspicions regarding the true power behind Siggy is confirmed, do you think they would be willing to deny access to others as well or do you think that they see this as a truly unique opportunity?

Dod Kalm: Absolutely, in their position I’d do the same thing.

TMC: Thank you for your time and candor.

Dod Kalm: Absolutely, anytime.

It is commonly assumed that the various wormhole mapping tools are only as trustworthy as their respective coders, and that, should they wish, the chains of all the users can be made available to a select few with the proper connections or amount of isk donated.  This means that if Siggy’s administrators wished to spy on HV, it would seemingly make more sense to allow HV continued access to its tool, especially since there is a purported 500 billion ISK reward for evicting HV from its home, and also because HV does not actually need Siggy as it has been transitioning its mapping tool to a GSF-coded one using Pathfinder, an open-source mapping tool.

However, it is also commonly assumed that spies are in every corporation and that the chain may already be regularly provided to enemies of HV and GSF anyway, so Siggy may just wish to deny them access and call it a day.

If Siggy is indeed denying HV access on purpose, as Dod Kalm suggests, then HV will have to accelerate its transition to Pathfinder.  While Siggy is free to allow or deny access as they see fit, it is probably not a good business practice to be conducting in the long run to implement Selective Availability, as evidenced by GPS, lest trust and use erode and other services claim the lost market share.  As Dod Kalm stated, however, he would do the same given the opportunity.

This denial, if deliberate, might just be spite reserved for GSF alone. The greater EVE and wormhole communities should use this as a lesson, however, that any third-party service can be denied at any time for any reason, and to always be prepared to use another service.

Update 4/7: Siggy has provided a response to TMC.

Siggy has kindly informed HV that its old CEO, FOEHAMMER006, now a member of PL, was the culprit behind removing HV’s Siggy access.  The permissions were never reset after he left.

HV has started a vote to recall FOEHAMMER006 to replace Dod Kalm as HV CEO.

Author’s Full Disclosure Statement: I am a member of HV and stand to benefit from restoration of Siggy services since HV owes me a lot of ISK for scanning but the stats are not currently accessible.  I have taken to writing for TMC to pay rent in the interim.

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