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gretty

Is the BIOS Serial Number Always Set, Constant & Reliable

12 posts in this topic

Hello

 

I am thinking of using the users BIOS/Motherboard Serial Number to uniquely identify a user (the application runs on Windows OS). When I refer to the BIOS/Motherboard Serial Number I am referring to the serial number returned when you type in: wmic BIOS get SerialNumber

 

I have previously attempted to use the Hard Drive serial number to uniquely identify a user but WMI is notoriously unreliable. For example; if you are running your .exe as an elevated process you will get a different Hard Drive serial number back from WMI. Also as crazy as this sounds, I have had 2 different Windows 8 machines change their Hard Drive serial no. on me when the Hard Drives were not changed at all - I'm not crazy this really happened - I realise there's no better way for people to think you're crazy than saying 'I'm not crazy' but putting that aside - do you know if I will experience these same issues with the BIOS/Motherboard' Serial Number?

 

Some queries

  • Can the user change this serial number? Either using third party applications or through Windows.
  • According to this forum post, not all vendors supply a motherboard UUID so I cannot use this to uniquely identify the user. Do venders mostly/always supply/fill out the BIOS/Motherboard Serial Number or will I also find some computers dont have a serial number?
  • I have tried to uniquely identify a user using the Hard Drive's Serial Number. But I have run into the issue that the serial number can change and that Windows API is unreliable and can return different values. Do you know if I may experience the same issue for the BIOS/Motherboard's Serial Number?
  • Can a standard process (Standard Windows User) retrieve the BIOS/Motherboard Serial Number? Or does the process need to be elevated (Admin User)?
  • What would happen if the user has a virtual machine?

Just to confirm the BIOS is the motherboard, correct? I am a little unclear because I thought the BIOS is the simple software installed on the motherboard.

 

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*Sigh* Well I guess that answers that just like the UUID, not all vendors fill out the serial number information. Back to the drawing board.

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I am referring to the serial number returned when you type in: wmic BIOS get SerialNumber

When I run that command, I get back "To be filled by O.E.M." laugh.png

 

 

I get:

SerialNumber
System Serial Number

ph34r.png

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Mine prints out a serial no. Weird so many computers dont have this information filled out.

 

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Users\Your_Awesomeness>wmic BIOS get SerialNumber
SerialNumber
YA017957H

 

 

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I would maybe suggest aggregating several numbers together, concatenating them, and then performing a hash to get a unique ID. You could use BIOS serial number, CPUID info, hard drive serial numbers, ethernet MAC addresses, any bit of info you can get your hands on (but only from sources which will remain static).

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Yes I think you're right. From what I've read many anti-piracy software applications do this - even Windows does this to verify a purchased version of Windows (they use 10 different hardware ids to produce a hash). The only problem is; if the user changes their hard drive, or wireless device, etc. the hash will change. So I'll need to be more forgiving and create a 'verification measure'. Hash bios UUID and hard drive serial, hash ethernet mac address and something else, and so on. If 4 out of 5 hashes match ( a 'verfication measure' of 4/5) then we have correctly identified the user.

 

Something along these lines appears to be a good enough compromise of security and legitimate hardware modifications.

Edited by gretty
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Actually, what do you need the ID for?

On Android, google tracks your preferences by identifying you via an "advertising ID", essentially a GUID that gets created once but can be recreated manually by the user. Would a similar mechanism work for you? Create a GUID uppon installation, store it in some config file and use that for user identification?
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Our bug reporting system often (with the permission of the reporter) includes the BIOS Id with other system information.  I've noticed it is usually 'to be filled by OEM'.  Given the margins in the PC business and the lack of a business case to spent a fraction of a cent to fill that out, I'm hardly surprised.

 

Tying restrictions to specific hardware identifications has always been a bust, which is why dongles were invented (they provided a reliable hardware identity).  Notice how popular dongles are today?  Gone are the good old days of a chain of USB or better yet serial dongles sticking out the back of your computer.  If ever there was a reason to torrent a cracked copy of software, the dongle was it.  Fortunately, cracking hardware-based protection is so easy such cracked copies were effectively available on day zero.

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This kind of scheme is also going to fail if your user gets a new PC.

 

Why not use a third-party authentication provider instead of trying to roll your own?

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- Motherboard BIOS (even UEFI) modding is not uncommon.

- Especially on desktop PCs the final user could change it's motherboard, so the UUID could change (mostly be empty or invalid od desktop PCs)

- On virtual machine the UUID is "fake" and easily editable by the final users.

- a motherboard UUID system protection will add only headache to the developers (they should need to add some sort of "re-validate" license system), will make final user angry (it's not nice see your software being blocked just for an hardware change) and you are also preventing users to install on multiple PCs the same software.

- Disassembly and searching for a certain and fixed winapi call is easy.

- It's just a waste of time, money and resources.

Edited by Alessio1989
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I was immediately thinking that your Media Access Control address could be used.  Everything that is connected to the Internet has one, most have more, as anything that is part of the Ethernet protocol has one, and they are supposed to be unique.  It is not (usually) very hard to change, though.

 

I was also thinking about CPUID: Processor Serial Number, but that does not seem to have been implemented for quite a few years, and AMD never implemented this.  If I remember correctly, I used to turn this feature off in the BIOS anyway.

 

This discussion reminded me of how the Windows activation process works.  Here is a discussion how it works, it might give you some ideas:

 

 http://www.technibble.com/windows-xp-activation-explained/

 

A question to ask, is wether this is so important that you are willing to waste your time doing this?  It is cracked faster than you can say 'cake' anyway, if the right person gets interest in your product.

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