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During lunchtime, I watched as a friend attempted to discreetly turn on a television in a public place and flip through the channels using his phone's infrared transmitter (although rather stupidly, since the television was not actually connected by coaxial to a source).

Although he was not caught, I wondered if there was any way to prevent such attacks if a television or projector was used in a large venue. Taking control simply by looking at the brand and model is a serious vulnerability: anyone with widely available hardware and software can mute audio, turn off a projector, change inputs (such as with a network projector, in preparation to take video control of it as well), and the like. The vulnerability is also present in common set-top boxes (which can be used to, for instance, change the channels at a sports bar).

Are there any practical remedies to this problem? Taping the IR receiver on the devices prevents legitimate use of a remote control, and devices that already use IR cannot simply be retrofitted with RF.

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Consumer IR is inherently insecure. And the reasoning for this is quite simple, why shouldn't it be?

Risk Assessment wise:

  • Can it be easily resolved?
  • What's the harm done?
  • What are the costs involved?

Some venues do in fact use flat panels that don't have IR on the front. There's no reason to have it, as there are physical controls. But let's propose that there are no IR control capabilities, then what stops someone from walking up and "changing the channel"? If the need arises, just tape over the IR port, and mount the display out of reach.

Does changing a channel really drastically impact people? Not really, so why would I invest in some high tech solution to prevent people from doing so? Tape and a monitor/tv arm solves the problem quite easily.

Most remote controls you receive for "top boxes", or "cable boxes" have the ability to self program, so the end user only needs 1 control for all their devices. It does this by systematically scanning and trying different codes until the TV or such device turns off. Lists of these codes are public, and can be programmed into a device. There is typically a grouping of codes per a brand (LG, Samsung, etc.).

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