Saturday, December 10, 2011

Applying Fiction In The Real World

I truly believe in my heart that I will be a full-time author some day. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later. After all, I am actively, diligently working toward that goal. So let's hope that good things really do come to those who wait...and work their tails off.

When I do finally get "there," I know that I won't entertain ANY thoughts of "if only..." as in, "If only I could have done this 20 years ago, I never would have needed a 'real' job," just like my current hero, Richard Castle. No, I don't regret for a second having to work my myriad day jobs. I've made good friends, and I've learned a lot, about people, about politics, and about cool computer stuff. In fact, my current career -- information security and privacy -- has provided me with what I consider to be a valuable life skill for the high-tech world we live in now: a healthy sense of paranoia. Of course, as Dr. Johnny Fever once said, "When they are after you, paranoid is just good thinking."

For example, every now and then on my way to work, I pass a car which has several stick-figure family stickers on the back.You've probably seen them: 

This car that I often see shows the "mommy" figure, two kids, and two pets.

Does this woman realize that she basically is advertising the fact that she's a single mom? Whether or not it's really true, it is a logical inference, based on the stickers. If I were a criminal, I might have another name for that: easy target. Clearly, one can't know whether she's a martial arts expert, or has a concealed carry permit. She might be formidible. But on the surface, she is saying, "I am alone."

And even if I were a non-violent criminal (i.e., not a kidnapper), I'd try to find out where that car goes every night, reasoning that the house almost certainly is vacant during the day, since she's clearly not a stay-at-home mom. To help with that effort, there also is a bumper sticker which displays the emblem of the school district they live in. Sure, it doesn't say what street; but it narrows down the search.

I hope this post doesn't come across as negative. Obviously, I'm not advocating violence or crime. But I am advocating caution and vigilance which, as an infosec pro, I have to exercise every day. I often have to put on a "black hat" in order to think about what sort of escapade a scammer might be dreaming up in order to separate our customers from their money. Similarly, as a writer of fiction, I frequently have to ask, "WWBGD?" (What Would a Bad Guy Do?)

The takeaway, I suppose, is to remember that if you can concoct an awesome fictional criminal attack, some real-world bad guy already has.

So be aware, and don't fall victim to some scheme that you thought was your personal property. Let's be careful out there, people.


  1. It's funny that you write this now, I just had the same thought this week. Coming out of work, the car in front of me had the collection of people and animals on the back. Why in heaven's name would you want to advertise that???

  2. Interesting thoughts, both in the post and comment. Speaking as someone who just recently put such decals on my car, I'll chip in my opinion. A friend once told me that it was not wise to have family decals on the car as it would advertise that we have kids, and so could target us to potential predators. At that time my kids were small, so I pointed out to my friend that anyone looking in the car windows would see two car seats, therefore they could figure out that we have two kids. I do understand the need to take precautions and keep ourselves and our kids safe. However, I firmly believe that the 24 hour news cycle makes every bad event seem like an epidemic. We hear endless reports about the kid snatched from one family on one day, but we don't hear about the millions of other kids who grow safely to adulthood.

    As for the decals, it made my kids really happy to have them on our car. We also have a school related decal. So I guess one of the "bad guys" out there could be laying in wait, and that they could glean from our car detailed info about us. Maybe I'm naive, but I just don't think that scenario happens enough to justify changing how we live. I'm more concerned about the people in our daily lives whom we don't know well but have contact with - those are more likely predators than someone driving around just looking.

  3. @onesillymama:

    I absolutely agree with your assessment that you can't (and shouldn't) let fear dictate how you live. As you stated, it's not too hard to glance into a car, see car seats, and realize that there are children. Heck, I drive a minivan. The only people who drive minivans are parents, salesmen, and musicians who can't afford cooler wheels.

    All I was saying is that in this case, she doesn't drive a mommy-van. So it would not be apparent that there were kids in there. But with the stickers, she seems to be advertising the fact the she's more vulnerable than a typical nukular family. That's all.