Have you ever noticed the simple pleasures a commute could bring if you took a moment to look around? One of those delights, undoubtedly, is observing the range of car stickers adorning the vehicles around you. It’s a phenomenon that not only transcends age groups, geographic locations, and socio-economic status but also provides an exceptional glimpse into the human psyche. This automotive skin allows drivers to showcase their personality, character, or affiliations without uttering a word.
Today, we’re diving into something you might never have considered before, however: the hidden messages we’re broadcasting through stickers on our cars. Yep, you heard right – those fun, prideful, or cute decals slapped generously on our 4-wheeled darlings can, unfortunately, be a goldmine of information for folks with less-than-stellar intentions, from cybercriminals to home burglars or kidnappers. This intersection of our offline and online worlds, and the threats it presents, falls under a term you might have heard of: doxing and social engineering.
What is Doxing?
In simple terms, Doxing refers to the malicious act of gathering and publishing private information about an individual on the internet without their consent. This information could range from personal phone numbers, addresses, family details, and even financial data. The intent behind this act is often malicious, aimed at harassment, defamation, or even threats to personal safety.
What is Social Engineering?
So what do these two scary-sounding terms have to do with innocent car stickers?
Well, quite a lot actually. Imagine this: you’ve got a cute family decal on your rear window that shows two adults, two kids, and a dog. You’re proud of your kids’ school, so you’ve got their school mascot on your bumper, along with their school football team, and a dance trophy. Your spouse is a fitness trainer at a local gym, so naturally, you have a sticker from there too. You love to hike and hunt so have a “Hunting legend” sticker. And, to round it all out, you’ve got a custom sticker of your dog’s name, Bob, because, well, who doesn’t love Bob?
And here is the catch: each sticker tells a story about your life. Innocent as they may seem, these details can be pieced together by someone looking to take advantage. They can discern where your kids go to school, where your spouse works, when you’re likely to be out of the house, and even your dog’s name (which, let’s be real, might also be your password somewhere – “Bob123” anyone?).
Someone wanting to get your personal information could trick your kids by pretending to be from their school. And, of course, cybercriminals could launch targeted attacks by impersonating someone from your spouse’s gym or even guess your password by using Bob’s name. An individual looking to break into homes could infer when your house is likely empty, thanks to that football or a hunting sticker.
In the hands of a person with bad intentions, these bits of information can be used for a variety of malicious activities. Armed with the sticker-derived information, a bad actor might be able to carry out effective social engineering attacks or use this data as the starting point to trawl social media platforms, forums, or other online spaces you frequent. As the digital and physical realms intertwine ever more tightly, seemingly minor details can be chained together to form a fuller picture of your personal life, making you vulnerable to doxing.
Yes, this may all sound a bit dramatic, but in the age of oversharing and constant connectivity, these risks are more real than ever. A photo of your car on your Instagram or Facebook account, for instance, can reveal as much information as a physical inspection of your house.
But fear not, there are steps you can take
to safeguard your personal information:
- Do a Sticker Audit: Next time you’re about to put a sticker on your car, pause and think about the information you’re potentially giving away. Same goes for your current stickers – it’s never too late to reassess. Think carefully about what information you’re inadvertently sharing through your car stickers and try to see it from a stranger’s perspective and consider what conclusions they might draw. Pesky sticky decals won’t peel off? Here is a great video of how to peel them off easily: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVmTKGMCHAk
- If you do keep stickers on, try to avoid using easily guessed passwords (sorry, Bob).
- Less is More: The less personal information you make publicly available, the better and your car is no different – this applies to your car, social media profiles, and any other platform where your information can be seen.
In the end, it’s all about balance. We all love showing off our passions, affiliations, and yes, our adorable pets. It is unfortunate, but in this day and age it is also essential to be aware of the unintended breadcrumbs we leave for those who might misuse that information. In an increasingly connected world, it’s worth taking a moment to consider: what story am I telling with my stickers?
What inspired this post? Fortunately, it was not a personal experience, but Richland Police Department posted a while ago highlighting exactly this issue and we thought this is something really worthy for people to be aware of. So feel free to share with your friends, family or community, you never know who might change their approach and avoid getting themselves or their loved ones in trouble.