A young hacker here at Defcon 20 has pulled back the dense curtain of text and ambiguity surrounding warranties to show consumers how they can hack the warranty system -- and to tell companies how to improve their warranty management.
"Darkred," as he prefers to be called, explained to a standing-room only session that it's the way manufacturers manage serial numbers and warranties that allows the system to be hacked.
"The serial number makes you the owner of a product," said the 17-year-old, a high school senior from Texas. Darkred declined to provide additional identifying information.
Once you have a serial number for a product, he explained, the manufacturer presumes possession. It's a bit like presuming I'm you, simply because I have your Social Security number. And having a serial number isn't just an exercise in pattern prediction: Darkred says it can lead to tangible benefits. For example, he said that registering a serial number with Amazon will get you one month free of Amazon Prime.