Thursday, July 12, 2012

EOW skirmish combat 2: the Nigerian Princesses

Well we are at the EOW (End of the World).  We have found ourselves transported to the world of a best selling apocalypse-in-progress, and we are worried about the bad guys.  We have already noted, (in number 1) that we need to be realistic about our capabilities and avoid panic.

What other general concept might we come up with that might be helpful?

To start us on our way, we will look at it from the bad guys point of view  - in this case they will be the attackers - and see what bad guys in the real world might look for.

Our bad guy in this case is a gal: a Nigerian Princess.   You know the one.  She sends you e-mails telling you that if you will only send her a little money, she will be able to release her fortune, and will gladly pay you a generous portion of said fortune.  Or she might even run a Canadian sweepstakes operation.

So why do all these scammers claim to be from Nigeria?  Why is it a Nigerian Princess, of all people, who is asking you to help her recover some money out a bank account?  Isn't that a sure sign that a ripp off  is in progress?

Yes, and that is exactly a point.  Spammer scammers have limited time and resources just like everyone else.  The advantage of the "Nigerian signal" is that it brings in only the absolutely the most gullible of people:  people they can work with.  In the most dipersed market imaginable, they are looking for the weak link.  Most of the bad guys are no longer even from Nigeria.

Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria? (pdf)
Cormac Herley, Microsoft Research (hat tip: MR)

Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives.
By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor. p1
From the conclusion:
To maximize profit an attacker will not pursue all viable users, but must balance the gain from true positives against the cost of false positives. We show how this difficulty allows many viable victims to escape harm. This difficulty increases dramatically as the density of viable victims in the population decreases. For attacks with very low victim densities the situation is extremely challenging. Unless viable and non-viable users can be distinguished with great accuracy the vast majority of viable users must be left un-attacked.

They are looking for isolated victems to exploit.

Of course, in our EOW skirmish setting they cannot send out e-mails.  If they are cannibal zombies they could send out zombies in postal uniforms to deliver invitations to a party, and see who shows up.  The Postman meets z-mail, so to speak.

Let us flip it back around, the reason that the Nigerian Princesses' are successful is because their targets are isolated, and independent.  It works in warfare as well.

Malyn Newitt, Trim and Fisssel (ed.), Brill,  Leiden & Boston, 2011 p117-118.

One great advantage of sea power was the capacity it gave the Portuguese to take their enemiew by surprise. Thee were numerous occasions when an armed Portuguese fleet appeared unexpectedly before a town and was able to take full advantage of the unpreparedness of the enemy.  Almeida's instructions spedivy how this element of surprise was to be used to get possession of Sofala. "You shall first  be towed into the entrance of Sofala taking good land-marks with your long boats ahead, and thus you shall go along the River Sofala so peacefully and leisurely that i might sem you are but rrading ships such as have called there before...And using this pretence you shall leap ashore therer from your long boats and using such care and deterity as you may, you shall forthwith take all the Moorish merhcants who may be there from foreign parts, and all the gold and merchandise you find upon them pp 117- 118.

We discussed "pretense" style attacks some time ago when we discussed it in the context of settler conflicts with the Native Americans, and we will bring up the advantages of surprise a little latter.  Note here, the Portuguese were weak.  They concentrated their power at key points, and used speed and surprise to do the rest.  Help was too far away to make an impact.  If you want a more modern example, you could look at the German paratroopers capture of the Forts of Eben-Emael early in World War 2.  The fortifications were not built so that they were self supporting, so when the paratroopers landed on the roofs of the bunkers, they were able to defeat them individually.

In a lot of your novels, you have towns that "defend their borders." O.k, you might be able to block a couple of the main roads in, but most modern towns are seriously spread out. It is inconceivable that you would have any success with a hard perimeter set up, in the few novels (Lights Out and Holding Their Own) that run through a hard scenario setup with a small housing develpment, it only works because the heros are super cabable (remember your capabilities), and the villians unusually inept.

There is a military maxim (Frederick II of Prussia), he who defends everything, defends nothing. In a time period where communications are less than perfect, if you scatter your forces to far apart, where they can no longer effectively support each other, the likely result against anyone with even remote amounts of competance is that you will be defeated in detail.

So what is one to do?
Before we even started this series, we noted that it might not always be the best idea for everyone to huddle up together in one big pill box (aka. your sandbagged home).  If you only have a handful of people, you may not have much choice, but than you probably should be thinking as much about defense routes as defense.    And we have seen from EOW 1, what happens when groups become isolated and loose communication. 

The only solution I know of, and I am sure there are many possible and interesting variations, is the German methods developed partially during World War 1, and latter more fully in World War 2.  That was to have irregularly patterned strongholds with 360° defense around the perimeter.  That doesn't mean you don't pay particular care to obvious means of approach (the road to the house), but it has to be defensible from all approaches.  They paid particular attention to concealing their defenses (which makes the home as strong point problematic), and that the defenses were able to fire on each other. 

Tactical Trends 38, U.S. Military Intelligence, 18 November 1943

Great care was taken to blend these pillboxes--mainly made of concrete--into the general ground pattern. The profusion in the island of walls, small houses, and huts, has helped this form of camouflage.
In one section (the Pachino area) several pillboxes were covered with complete huts made of straw. One pillbox overlooking a road junction was an actual small House, reinforced with concrete and having a weapon slit just above ground level.
Examples seen in another area were straw-roofed and sited on slopes in the vicinity of limestone ledges, which made recognition difficult. They had straw "blinds" to cover the weapon loopholes. One pillbox noted and photographed was sited against a wall, and an attempt had been made with paint to simulate the pattern of the stone wall.
Note that they went low.  Rather than building a house up with sandbags, they would be more likely to go low- in a modern house they would be in the basement, or dug under the slabs or footing.

The German's were not perfect.  They sometimes gave away their positions by making the layout of the barb-wire to obvious rather than have it lay within the contours and concealments of the land.   Barb-wire entanglements around a haystack look a little odd.

They knew where the defensive points were, so they could pre-plot fire into the defensive zones with reduced risk of inflicting friendly casualties. A typical setup for two German pillboxes, was not facing outwards, but facing each other.   Of course the Germans were using medium machine guns, and would have a lot of them, and as importantly a lot of ammunition.  In our zombie infested world, the ranges will likely have to be tightened up.  Rawles (Patriots) did a good job hiding his outpost overlooking the fortress/house, but it did not appear to have 360° visiblity, and ad the obvious high point, looked like the first place a scouting aggressor would head for.  With little attention paid to escape routes, it looked like a good way to loose two people (from very small numbers) right from the start.

Finally, they knew that sometimes you had to give up a position.  But generally they only liked to do so temporarily.  As we noted earlier, ammunition gets heavy, and people on foot can only carry so much on them.  The Germans were famours for their immediate counter attacks (in their case supported by local mortar fire) on positions taken.  The attacker had not yet organized themselves, likely was not yet aware of the nuanses and sight lines, and  had not distributed fresh ammunition stocks.  Of course you probably don't have mortars on hand, but than zombies don't have firearms.  Its all relative.

A real Nigerian Princess, Sarata Jatta Dibba (See here, from here).  She looks like one of my Haitian neighbors.


Anonymous said...

Some ideas for that neighborhood pill box! HOA approved?

The main problem I have is investing time and money into a "home" with the expectation that you might have to leave.

Would someone be better off just scattering a bunch of caches?


Anonymous said...

Also pretty woman.

BTW, Nigerians have a rather poor reputation among the people of Africa. I worked with a Haitian guy who "looked" Nigerian. He went out of his way to tell everyone at work that he wasn't from Nigeria!


russell1200 said...

GK: interesting link. Hard to tell for sure, but it looks like they didn't take much time to work them into the landscape. I am sure they were in a hurry though.

To be honest. I doubt most people can really afford one reasonably safe residence. The ideal cache would be a storage unit (since it is legal) but they are not cheap either.

I have a neighbor from Haiti, she looks a lot like our princess. Nigeria has a variety of different groups, so it is hard to know what people are reacting to. But it does remind me that the English in the high middle ages had an awful reputation on the continent. A standing rule of some of the caravan masters was that no Englishmen were allowed. LOL