The relationship between Americans and their automobiles is a complicated one. More than mere transport, cars can become extensions of one’s personality—think of stereotypes about drivers of a particular model like a Corvette, for instance. Since cars are mass-produced, it’s natural that people want to personalize them. Sometimes it’s covering them with every bit of chromed plastic you can find at JCPenney. Sometimes it’s plastering them in stickers. And sometimes, it might just be a personalized number plate.
The rules for personalized plates vary depending on the state in which you’re registering your car. These can foster creativity, but today we have a cautionary tale from California, which reveals the risks of being too creative. It’s the story of a security researcher known as Droogie, who presented his experience at the recent DEFCON conference in Las Vegas. Droogie decided his new vanity plate should read “NULL.” While he did this mainly for the giggles, he told the audience that there was an ulterior motive, as reported by Mashable:
“I was like, ‘I’m the shit,'” he joked to the crowd. “‘I’m gonna be invisible.’ Instead, I got all the tickets.”
Droogie’s hope was that the new plate would exploit California’s DMV ticketing system in a similar manner to the classic xkcd “Bobby Tables” cartoon. With any luck, the DMV’s ticket database would see “NULL” and consign any of his tickets to the void. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened.