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In one of my xx.stackexchange questions I've got an answer, in which the user has obfuscated his disk's SN (serial number). Recently I have seen this in several photos as well, the SN was blurred out.

I' am just curious, because I have never paid attention to this. What could be the potential risk in publishing a device's SN?

I do see some sense when it comes to a MAC address, OK, this could be used for tracking. But a SN of a disk, iPad, whatsoever? Maybe there is an important reason for not publishing it, which I haven't seen so far.

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With the serial number of a device you can perform a social engineering attack against the indivual. –  Ramhound Jun 19 '12 at 11:25
    
Is there an example for this? –  Horst Walter Jun 19 '12 at 11:48
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Risk assessment through gut feeling rather than critical thinking –  Paul Jun 19 '12 at 12:03
    
Same reason people feel it's necessary to blot out their license plates in photos of their car I guess. Regardless this isn't a computer hardware or software question. Perhaps a "meta" question?? If that even. :) –  techie007 Jun 19 '12 at 12:03
    
The car's plate is different. Because you can track back from the plate to the owner. But is the SN registered somewhere, it could be, but not necessarily is. And where would you trace that SN owner relationship? Regarding off topic: It is your good right to vote for close, If the majority thinks it is this way, I need to accept this. –  Horst Walter Jun 19 '12 at 12:09
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are a few reasons a serial number may be obfuscated.

  1. Some devices, like some disk-to-network enclosures are controlled by software that is able to detect and control the device by the serial number, even across the internet (some of it based on short-sighted design)
  2. Unscrupulous people could file stolen-stuff reports or insurance claims with the serial numbers they don't own.
  3. Unscrupulous people could try to gain access to your personal information by way of the hardware manufacturer's website if the hardware was registered there.
  4. Unscrupulous people could register your hardware with the manufacturer as their own hardware, then claim the hardware as stolen.

Granted the threat level on any one or more of these is pretty small. But I don't personally discount anyone's worries about them, because there is room for unscrupulous people to do bad things with "too much" information.

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Good summary, 1. is a good hint. The report stolen / register idea also crossed my mind, but in reality I have my doubts. Since the people who report / register are known, they run a high risk. Once the situation is noticed and I proof I am the legitimate owner, they are in the trap. Compared to CC fraud, the profit compared to the risk seems pretty limited. –  Horst Walter Jun 22 '12 at 8:28
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