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The HDMI firewall prevents devices from hacking HDMI equipment, and vice-versa.

purpose

HDMI is mainly used to transfer audio and video, but also offers a number of additional features (e.g. HDCP, CEC, HEC, ARC, MHL). This increases the attack surface, and since the security of their implement in embedded devices is far from ideal, an attacker could exploit them and inject malicious code. Now your unsuspicious video equipment is compromised and threatens your IT/network security. And your monitor could then in turn hack back any other device connected to it.

For example, let's imagine you invite an external guest for a presentation inside your company. You offer to connect to a smart TV or video-projector so he can show his slides. This is the perfect opportunity for the guest to hack it. Now your smart TV can act as a spy in your network. Or next time an employee connects to the projector, his laptop is hacked back. And voila, the innocent guest managed to infiltrate your company network, and can exfiltrate confidential information.

The HDMI firewall can block all additional interfaces, and only allow audio and video data transfer. It is based on the research of Pierre-Michel Ricordel and José Lopes Esteves from ANSSI/SDE/ST/LSF presented at the IT security conference SSTIC 2021. Some security research and vulnerabilities around CEC and EDID are listed in slide 4.

usage

First plug the HDMI cable going to the monitor on the HDMI firewall on the port labeled MONITOR. Then plug the HDMI cable going to the device on the HDMI firewall on the port labeled DEVICE. That's it, your equipment (monitor and device) are now protected. But the firewall should be fine tuned as described below.

The HDMI firewall comes with a generic HD profile, but this might not correspond to the capabilities of your monitor. The resulting image could be distorted, or completely missing. Thus, you first have to copy the Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) information of the equipment to protect. This data includes information such as the supported resolutions. The HDMI firewall can copy the EDID from the monitor:

  1. ensure the firewall is connected to the monitor
  2. unplug the device from the firewall
  3. toggle the small switch labeled EDID/7 to the ALLOW/ON position
  4. ensure the SDA/2 and SCL/3 switches are on the BLOCK/OFF position
  5. plug the device to the firewall
  6. this will power the firewall, which will copy the monitor EDID onto its internal memory, shown by a short blink of the ERROR LED
  7. unplug the device, and switch back the EDID/7 switch to the BLOCK/OFF position so the firewall keeps and uses the copied EDID information
  8. when connecting the device back in, you should see the same name as the monitor, with a '|' at the end, indicating you are using the write-protected EDID from the firewall

The HDMI firewall allows to select which interfaces are blocked using the switches. The highest security is provided when blocking all lines by setting the switches to the BLOCK position. If you still trust your equipment enough and want to use a feature, you can set the corresponding switch to the ALLOW/ON position:

  • 5V: some monitors require this line to detect when a device is plugged in, and since currently no other information is transferred over this line, it is rather safe to enable it
  • Display Data Channel (DDC): High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) uses this interface. To enable it, switch SDA and SCL on. Warning: since the EDID is also transferred over this interface, the firewall can't provide a write-protected copy of it. Instead the original monitor EDID is used, maybe not write-protected.
  • Consumer Electronics Control (CEC): this interface allows to remotely control equipment, such as setting the volume and powering on/off all connected devices and monitors at once
  • HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC), Audio Return Channel (ARC), and Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL): to enable these interfaces, switch UTIL and HPD on to forward the HEAC+ and HEAC- lines

The HDMI firewall can also be used to provide custom EDID, as it sometimes is faulty in the monitor. For that you need to program the raw binary EDID (with up to 1 extension block) onto the STM8S103 EEPROM using the RST and SWIM lines made available on the back of the board.

limitations

The HDMI firewall use impedance controlled lines: 4-layer impedance controlled board, differential pair routing, intra- and inter-pair length matching. This should allow and audio any video signal to be transmitted to the monitor. But I only have 2K equipment I could test it on. I could not test the firewall against 4K, 8K, or 3D capable monitors. CEC remote control has been tested. But I don't have any equipment using HDCP, HEC, ARC, or MHL. Thus I could also not test these interfaces.

The firewall only supports EDID with up to 1 extension block. This is the case for all monitors I've seen. Some high end monitors supporting numerous features might have additional extensions blocks. Thus the firewall might prevent from using the monitor to its full potential. You can still use the original EDID from the monitor by setting the SDA/2 and SCL/3 switches to the ALLOW/ON position. The DDC channel won't be firewalled anymore though.

Feel free to report any success or issues to hdmi@cuvoodoo.info.

availability

The HDMI firewall is available on tindie.

The schematic pdf and board gerbers are available as release.

firmware

The firmware and sources for the HDMI firewall embedded programmer are available here.

troubleshooting

If the monitor does not detect the device or does not display anything (but should), try to re-enable the 5V forward (as per default) by switching the 5V/1 switch to ALLOW/ON.

If the ERROR LED stays on, it means copying the EDID failed:

  • be sure the monitor is connected before you connect the device (which powers the firewall)
  • be sure the SDA/2 and SCL/3 switches are set to BLOCK so the firewall can use the DDC interface to read the EDID
  • the EDID of the monitor might be corrupted or have an invalid checksum, in which case the firewall will not copy it
  • the firewall EEPROM memory has worn out or is defective (it should last 300 thousand copies)

To read and play with EDID under Linux, you can use the instructions provided for the previous HDMI firewall v1.