Create An 18 Digit Serial Key

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I have devices with unique serial number (string incremetation) ex : AS1002 and AS1003.

I need to figure out an algorithm to produce a unique activation key for each serial number.

What would be the best approach for this ?

Thanks !

(This has to be done offline)

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5 Answers

Create an 18 digit serial key code

You have two things to consider here:
- Whatever key you generate must be able to be entered easily, so this eliminates some weird hash which may produce characters which will be cumbersome to type, although this can be overcome, it’s something you should consider.
- The operation as you stated must be done online

Firstly, there will be no way to say with absolute certainty that someone will not be able to decipher your key generation routine, no matter how much you attempt to obfuscate. Just do a search engine query for “Crack for Xyz software”.

This has been a long battle that will never end, hence the move to deliver software as services, i.e. online where the producer has more control over their content and can explicitly authorize and authenticate a user. In your case you want to do this offline. So in your scenario someone will attach your device to some system, and the accompanying software that you intend to write this routine on will make a check against the serial number of the device v/s user input.

Based on @sll’s answer, given the offline nature of your request. Your best, unfortunately would be to generate a set of random codes, and validate them when user’s call in.

Here is a method borrowed from another SO answer, I've added digits as well

So, generating one for each of your devices and storing them somewhere might be your only option because of the offline considerations.

This routine will produce strings like this when set to create a 10 digit string, which is reasonably random.


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By far the most secure way to do it is to have a centralized database of (serial number, activation key) pairs and have the user activate over the internet so you can check the key locally (on the server).

In this implementation, the activation key can be completely random since it doesn't need to depend on the serial number. Driver tuner 3.5 serial key.

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You want it to be easy to check, and hard to 'go backwards'. You'll see a lot of suggestions for using hashing functions, those functions are easy to go one way, but hard to go backwards. Previously, I phrased that as 'it is easy to turn a cow into a hamburger, but hard to turn a hamburger into a cow'. In this case, a device should know its own serial number and be able to 'add' (or append) some secret (usually called 'salt') to the serial and then hash or encrypt it.

If you are using reversible encryption, you want to add some sort of 'check digit' to the serial numbers so that if someone does figure your encryption scheme out, there is another layer for them to figure out.

An example of a function that is easy enough to 'go backwards' was one I solved with Excel while trying to avoid homework.

And you probably want to make things easier for your customers by making the encoding less likely to be messed up when the activation codes are handwritten (such as you write it down from the email then walk over to where the device is and punch the letters/digits in). In many fonts, I and 1, and 0 and O are similar enough that many encodings, such as your car's VIN do not use the letters i and o (and I remember older typewriters that lacked a key for the digit 1 because you were expected to use lowercase L). In such cases, Y, 4 and 7 can appear the same depending on some handwriting. So know your audience and what are their limits.

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How about: Invent a password that is not revealed to the user. Then concatenate this password with the serial number and hash the combination.

Anything you do can be broken by a dedicated enough hacker. The question is not, 'Can I create absolutely unbreakable security?' but 'Can I create security good enough to protect against unskilled hackers and to make it not worth the effort for the skilled hackers?' If you reasonably expect to sell 10 million copies of your product, you'll be a big target and there may be lots of hackers out there who will try to break it. If you expect to sell a few hundred or maybe a few thousand copies, not so much.

Create An 18 Digit Serial Key

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If your device has some secured memory which can not be read by connecting an programmator or an other device -you can store some key-code and then use any hashing algorithm like MD5 or SHA-1/2 to generate hash by:

And pairs of SERIALNUMBER + KEYCODE should be stored in local DB.

In this way: (offline)

  • Client calling you and asking for the Activation Code
  • You asking for a SERIALNUMBER of particular device
  • Then you search for a KEYCODE by a given SERIALNUMBER in your local DB and generate Activation Code (even using MD5 this will be sacure as long KEYCODE is privately stored in your DB)
  • Client enter Activation Code into the device, device able to generate hashby own SERIALNUMBER and KEYCODE and then compare to Activation Code entered by user

This could be simplified by storing activation code itself if device has a secured memory onboard (like SmartCards has). In this way you can just keep own database of SerialCode - ActivationCode pairs.

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