Hackers might have the upper hand when it comes to computer systems, but it seems that no one can ever beat the Department of Motor Vehicles. One information security researcher who goes by the name Droogie told the audience at the Def Con hacking conference about how he tried to get one over on the DMV. Droogie decided to buy a vanity California license plate that simply said “NULL,” a word used in programming for no specific value. He did it as a joke but also hoped it might confuse automatic license plate readers or the DMV’s ticketing system. Well, it wound up doing that, but not in a way Droogie was hoping for.
Droogie thought he would be “invisible” but things started to go awry when he first registered the tags. He tried typing in his license plate but the DMV website wouldn’t accept it. Then things really went downhill. Droogie wound up with a parking ticket but on top of that legitimate fine, he got dozens of other tickets in the mail as well. In total, the outstanding fines against him were over $12,000.
Apparently, when they didn’t have the right data for a vehicle, a privately operated citation processing center used the word NULL in the license plate field for many tickets. Since that just happens to be Droogie’s license plate, he got all of them.
Droogie contacted the DMV who told him to change his plate. He refused because he didn’t do anything wrong. While they wiped the fines off his record, unfortunately for him, they didn’t fix the problem in the system so once again, Droogie has accrued another $6,000 in tickets that he had nothing to do with. He says he won’t be paying those either.
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