All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
Note: not to be confused with rat, which indicates an NPC Pirate. A pirate is always a player character.
In Eve, a pirate is a player who chooses to rob from other players through the use of scams, bending the law, or by brute force in the space lanes and gates. Most pirates in New Eden tend to be the latter as the use of scams is not limited to those who call themselves pirates. Many scams are undertaking by seemingly law-abiding pod pilots with positive security status living in high-sec space in hub centres such as Jita, Rens and Hek.
Although not as specific as a career path laid out by game mechanics such as Miner, Industrialist, or Mission Runner, the play style of the pirate is a popular one and has been consistently present in Eve since it began. Unlike many other MMOs, the criminal nature of the pirate is fully supported by CCP and the in-game mechanics in that it is NOT illegal to high-jack a ship in space and demand payment for release.
Similar to these other careers the goal of the pirate is to make money in order to support his lifestyle. Pirates consistently engage in risky activities and generally lose many more ships than their industrialist counter-parts. However the rewards can be very lucrative, and many pirates attest that their lifestyle is the most enjoyable way to live as a pod pilot.
Types of Piracy
Many pirates engage in small gang or solo PvP in order to secure ISK via dropped loot. Although not every piece of equipment will be salvageable, a fair amount of ISK is generally secured. Pirate roaming almost always occurs in low-sec and occasionally in NPC null-sec as most pirates cannot venture into high-sec space.
Many pirates use gate camps as one of the safest methods to procure money from the unwary or hasty traveler. By selecting a bottleneck system that is well traveled on the way to trade hubs or mission locations, pirates can camp a gate with as few as three ships and destroy anything larger than a frigate that passes by.
Broadly, there are two types of gate camps: those in low-sec space and those in null-sec space. In low-sec space, gates have sentry guns and criminal flagging exists. In null-sec, there are no gate guns and there usually is the liberal use of warp disruption spheres.
In low-sec, ships camping the gate tend to be battle cruiser class or higher due to the need to be able to withstand the fire of sentry guns long enough to complete their tackle. These sentry guns are situated around the all non null-sec star gates. Sentry guns respond to any criminal action. They hit for a lot of damage, have extremely high tracking; so they never miss and they can't be easily destroyed. Any ships smaller than a battle cruiser class ship will usually risk being destroyed.
In null-sec, with the absence of CONCORD and sentry guns means that tactics change. Warp disruption bubbles with heavy and light interdictor class ships make the main difference of null sec gate camps.
Scams in Eve involve anything from bending game mechanics to outright lying to other players in order to make ISK. From contract scamming to fake interest bank investments and many many more.
Similar to can flipping this involves ambushing a hauling ship that is known to be carrying a large amount of valuables. Using a cheap ship that can destroy the hauler before the gate sentries or CONCORD can destroy the pirate's ship, and then stealing whatever valuables are left after the explosion is the goal here. It usually involves two persons; One that does the shooting (and subsequent dying) and one that scoops up the loot left behind from both the destroyed hauler and the pirate's gankship.
Ransoming mission runners (before their ships have been destroyed) or pods (after the pilot's ship has been destroyed), is also another way that pirates make their money.
Miners in belts, players exploring worm-holes, traders moving between low-sec systems are all game for ransoming. Either their ship and/or their cargo and/or their pods can be ransomed for an agreed amount of isk. Once the ransom is paid, the pirates should allow the ransomed pilot the opportunity to leave the system as quickly as possible.
Effects of Piracy
All players who engage in pirate activities will eventually see their security status fall below 0 due to their crimes. Once it sinks below -2.0, which can be done very fast if one favors shooting pods, the pirate will find himself locked out of 1.0 security systems in high security space. Should he enter a 1.0 system, he will be fired upon by the local navy. See below for more clarification. As the security status keeps dropping, the pirate will be locked out of more and more of high sec, until he reaches the threshold of -5.0 personal security status.
Once below -5.0 the pirate is branded an outlaw by CONCORD. Outlaws will show up as solid red in the overview (assuming one uses the standard overview setting) and are locked out of all high security space. In addition to this, outlaws does not get any help from sentry guns or CONCORD should anyone agress them. In short: anyone, anywhere, can shoot the outlaw without penalty. The outlaw is however allowed to defend himself against any agressors, but only those that have directly agressed him. For this reason, outlaws can easily find themselves in unfavourable situations, since they will never have sentry support at gates. Pilots that shoot at outlaws do not incur a security status loss for agression.
Because of this most Pirates live exclusively in low sec, plying their trade on other low sec dwellers, and the occasional pod pilot who wanders into their domain.
It's a common misconception that it is CONCORD that engages pirates with below -5.0 security status in high security space, while it is in fact the local navy that does so. CONCORD will only engage if the outlaw has incurred a GCC (Global Criminal Countdown) caused by commiting a crime in Empire Space. There is ONE exception when instead of the local navy, CONCORD engage criminals with below -5.0 security status and that is in CONCORD space where the local navy *IS* CONCORD. The local navies are not as powerful as CONCORD and it is possible to survive their onslaught and limp back to the gate, or even escape before they warp scramble the ship, making any escape impossible.
Some pirates are known to have alts that serve as money makers, rather they be miners or mission runners. Many others employ alts who work as haulers and ship scanners. Having an alt who can fly CovOps and work Scan Probe Launchers are also popular for 'solo PvP' work.