Are VGA cables too "dumb" to spread malware from one device to another device?

Background: I'm giving a talk tomorrow, and the laptop I'm presenting on will be connected via VGA cable to another computer that'll be recording the presentation as well as passing the signal to a projector. Not that I have any reason to believe my computer or the other computer are likely to have viruses...

  • 6
    How do you connect 2 pc's with a vga cable?? A pc usually doesn't have a vga-in. – fretje Dec 7 '09 at 10:59
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    @Andrew, your profile says you analyse biological data. Sounds fascinating, but remember, the 'computer virus' metaphor can only be stretched so far. – pavium Dec 7 '09 at 11:54
  • @pavium when I talk about mutation testing to rails developers, they assume I'm talking about genetic diseases rather than unit testing because I'm a bioinformatician. – Andrew Grimm Dec 7 '09 at 22:27
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    bwahahahahahaha. i guess if you can network 2 PCs with a VGA cable, you can certainly transfer viruses.... – quack quixote Jan 3 '10 at 18:01
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    A good reason to not put VGA cables in your mouth! – Daniel R Hicks Aug 21 '12 at 17:14

No, they cannot be spread via VGA.

  • Expanding on that, I'd like to say that the recording device is only receiving the video signal from your laptop. No actual harddrive data is being transmitted. – Travis Dec 7 '09 at 16:53

In theory, yes, it might be possible for a display to exploit a weakness in the computer's display drivers via the DDC backlink. In parctice, I have never heard about such an exploit being used.

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    Seems farfetched, but at one time viruses spreading via e-mail was a big joke amongst IT professionals since it was "impossible". Look at us now... – Brian Knoblauch Dec 7 '09 at 14:37
  • +1 Cool idea. Somebody should exploit it, seriously. – Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Jan 3 '10 at 18:52
  • If this was a typically use case I'm sure we would see it, but since almost nobody does this I doubt we ever will. – heavyd Apr 10 '10 at 4:03
  • Data is being transmitted by the monitor to the PC, letting the PC know what type of monitor it is. – Keltari Aug 21 '12 at 17:16
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    I know this is an old post, but this has now been done, but with HDMI rather than VGA. Someone found a bunch of HDMI CEC and HEC handling bugs in a few mobile devices and demonstrated how it was possible to gain remote root on them just by plugging in a malicious device. – Polynomial Sep 4 '13 at 12:12

The answer given by Toby is correct, under normal circumstances you would not be able to get a virus from a vga connection..... but this does given me an idea for a funny office prank.

Open up a dvi-vga adapter and incorporate a device that flashes the word virus on the screen for 2-5 frames every 5 minutes.

Instant Classic


Another idea, similar to @Kythos' prank, would be to place a hardware keylogger together with this display spoofer, and make it display something on the screen like a windows logon.

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