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Getting Cool Vanity License Plate ‘NULL’ Is Not Really a Cool Idea, Infosec Researcher Discovers

Choosing NULL as your license plate might seem like a funny idea. But as an infosec researcher discovered recently, the cool-looking NULL vanity plate comes with its own consequences. Researcher Droogie, that’s his handle, who presented at this year’s DEF CON in Las Vegas, said he has been on the receiving end of thousands of dollars worth of tickets that aren’t his. From a report: Droogie registered a vanity California license plate consisting solely of the word “NULL” — which in programming is a term for no specific value — for fun. And, he admitted to laughs, on the off chance it would confuse automatic license plate readers and the DMV’s ticketing system. “I was like, ‘I’m the shit,'” he joked to the crowd. “‘I’m gonna be invisible.’ Instead, I got all the tickets.” Things didn’t go south immediately. As Droogie explained, he’s a cautious driver and didn’t get any tickets for the first year he owned the vanity plate. Then he went to reregister his tags online, and, when prompted to input his license plate, broke the DMV webpage. It seemed the DMV site didn’t recognize the plate “NULL” as an actual input.

That was the first sign that something was amiss. The next sign was, well, a little more serious: After receiving a legitimate parking ticket, thousands of dollars in random tickets starting arriving in the mail at his house, addressed to him. It seemed that a privately operated citation processing center had a database of outstanding tickets, and, for some reason — possibly due to incomplete data on their end — many of those tickets were assigned to the license plate “NULL.” In other words, the processing center was likely trying to tell its systems it didn’t know the plates of the offending cars. Instead, with Droogie’s vanity plate now in play, it pegged all those outstanding tickets on him. Specifically, over $12,000 worth of outstanding tickets. Long story short, Droogie went on the painstaking process to explain the situation to the DMV and the LAPD, both of whom advised him to change his plate. At any rate, the DMV reached out to the private vendor and sorted the issue.


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