DEF CON: BSODomizing In High Definition

A few years ago, [Kingpin] a.k.a. [Joe Grand] (A judge for the 2014 Hackaday Prize) designed the most beautiful electronic prank ever. The BSODomizer is a simple device with a pass-through connection for a VGA display and an infrared receiver. Plug the BSODomizer into an unsuspecting coworker’s monitor, press a button on a remote, and watch Microsoft’s blue screen of death appear. It’s brilliant, devious, and actually a pretty simple device if you pick the right microcontroller.

The original BSODomizer is getting a little long in the tooth. VGA is finally dead. The Propeller chip used to generate the video only generates text, and can’t reproduce Microsoft’s fancy new graphical error screens. HDMI is the future, and FPGAs have never been more accessible. For this year’s DEF CON, [Kingpin] and [Zoz] needed something to impress an audience that is just learning how to solder. They’ve revisited the BSODomizer, and have created the greatest hardware project at this year’s DEF CON.

Before simply deciding to add HDMI to the original BSODomizer, [Kingpin] and [Zoz] did the smart thing and figured out what the features of this new, updated display prank toy would be. Full color 1080p was a must, images should be loadable from an SD card, and animations would be a cool feature. That SD card opens up a few possibilities, so they’re also looking into taking screencaps, giving the BSODomizer HD pentesting capabilities far beyond what the original could attain. These features meant an FPGA would be needed.

The development board chosen for the prototype of the BSODomizer HD was a Cyclone V GX development board, available from the usual retailers for about $170. To this, the team added an HDMI transceiver from Analog. After that, it was only a matter of learning Verilog, FPGA development, and pushing pixels to the screen.

After creating a few test patterns, the next step was pushing an image over a HDMI cable. A 1920×1080 image at 24bbp is almost six Megabytes, which means some fast memory is needed. That memory was added to the project in the form of 512MB of LPDDR2 – more than enough for long animations. Add in a small PIC microcontroller to keep track of the battery and act as a trigger with an IR remote control, and the prototype was more of less complete.

The result of weeks of work is a sandwich of boards that’s far too expensive to be a product, far too big to be a 1337 piece of pen testing gear, and doesn’t have the valuable screen capture function. There’s still a lot – a lot – of engineering to do on the BSODomizer HD, but if there’s enough interest and demand, this may become a real product.

In keeping with the recent DEF CON tradition, this project was more of an introduction to a technique, in this case HDMI and programmable logic. Elsewhere on the Internet, people have been putting together cooler FPGA and HDMI mashups for years, including overlaying video on encrypted HDMI streams, and various ambilight clones that look at pixels before passing them through to a HDMI out port. Even building an FPGA solution with HDMI in and out is a bit overkill – this board is a complete solution for a BSODomizer HD with a bunch of Verilog. Still, the prototype for this project was exquisite, even if the demo wasn’t exactly safe for the kids in the room.

Check out this video of the original BSODomizer in action.

36 thoughts on “DEF CON: BSODomizing In High Definition

    1. Even the full name itself fails on so many levels.

      Dictionary definition –

      “The definition of sodomize is to perform unnatural or abnormal sexual intercourse on a person. When you penetrate a person anally, this is an example of when you sodomize that person.”

      I would expect there would be members of the GBLTI community that would find that offensive.

      Good project bit oh that name!

        1. BSODomize is a combination of blue screen of death and sodomizing, sodomizing would refer to the popular term ‘being fucked in the ass’ which is a reference to being screwed over by soft or hardware too. Which brings us to a classic troll from the dawn of the internet.

          But to be fair, I’m no fan of that particular meme either.

          Incidentally I often wonder how many people link sodomizing to the biblical town of Sodom these days, do the religious people in America still get the reference?

          1. yes we do, and up until far more recently than some might imagine many towns and states had “anti-sodomy” laws on the books making homosexual relations unlawful, which also comes from biblical teachings. In actuality, homosexuality is mentioned far more often in the bible than some might imagine. In the old testament, “the wages of a dog” is referencing the money earned by a male homosexual prostitute. In many cases, the OT references to homosexuality was in conjunction with pagan worship practices where homosexual relations were part of the worship of a particular deity. But I digress….

  1. The article states: “VGA is finally dead”
    hmm…. really? I just bought a brand new motherboard that uses an intel i5 6400, it is working for 10days now, it is connected through a VGA connector and I’m sure (or actually, I hope) it will be operational for at least 10 years.
    So saying that VGA is “dead” is not the term I would prefer. VGA is dead when nobody is using it any more, when only to be found in a museum, then I will admit is is “dead”. Until then, VGA is alive and kicking.

    That some leader in a technology does not prefer to use VGA for some of their products, it doesn’t mean that VGA immediately ceases to exist on all produced products from the same manufacturer. Then there are also other producers and although I’m sure that they will eventually follow, this may take many, many years.

    Stop spreading these rumors, please.

          1. [Whatnot] claimed you couldn’t find a 2016 era monitor with a VGA port. I pointed out this was far from true. VGA is not yet dead, nor even unwell. When the world moves on to 4K or higher monitors then VGA may get left behind. Until then it’s the lowest common denominator for video connection. It might not be good, but it’s common.

        1. amazon sells monitors from the damn 80’s, I said a 2016 model.
          But I should not attack you on living in your fantasy world, there’s no need.

          -Teletyped from a DEC KA10

          1. Last I checked, they still sell televisions with VGA input, mine’s just a couple of years old. Of course I don’t actually USE it, eurgh! It’s connected to the PC with HDMI, but it’s also a TV. This monitor has only VGA, and it’s not bad, for 17 or so inches of widescreen.

            Wish I had a tallscreen monitor, actually, those rotatable ones look really useful.

          2. They list, for example, the iiyama G-MASTER GE2488HS-B2, HKC 2276AH, LG Electronics 22MP48D and Lenovo ThinkVision T2324d as newly available (within the last 30 days) and having VGA ports.

      1. Even some modern 4k monitors have VGA in, sure they upscale the signal, but VGA will only be dead the day all previously released tech using it suddenly croaks all at once.

        It’s a common denominator for video output for a reason, and that’s because in 99% of all display signal scenarios it’s more than good enough unless you’ve gotten your hands on a buggy cable.

        Also the same reason DB-9 serial ports still exist, even though the motherboard of stationary computers don’t have it on the backplate doesn’t mean they don’t have it available via a internal header and externally with a adapter bracket.

      2. Well I just went to ebay and all the top results for computer monitor have VGA as well.

        I don’t agree that VGA is dead and I don’t expect that it will die and time soon. What point is there to having super high definitions on smallish computer monitors?

        I am using a 37 inch monitor and it is connected via 15 pin VGA @ 1360 x 768 and that if fine.

        VGA requires about 26 GPIO for true color and HDMI requires about 10 GPIO but you can VGA at much slower clock rates and on much cheaper chips than HDMI. For HDMI *in* you need LVDS and higher clock rates. For HDMI *out* you still need higher clock rates and more expensive chips ASIC or FPGA.

        I think the smaller screens will have VGA for a long time yet. HDMI is more aimed at larger screens.

        We had the “VGA is dead” thing with DVI and what happened there? I don’t see DVI connectors on monitors anymore.

      3. My LED 1080 120Hz TV has VGA input, only 2 hdmi, composite/component shared ports, usb, and smart tv apps for $300. No camera or microphone, it was the cheap smart tv.

        I only cared about 1080p and 120Hz or better; VGA and the rest were icing.

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