Old New Things: An Examination of the Philips TriMedia Architecture

Conference:  BlackHat EU 2018



The presentation discusses the Philips TriMedia architecture, an uncommon CPU architecture, and the challenges of reverse engineering it. The speaker examines an IoT device to show the architectural and functional aspects of the TriMedia architecture.
  • The Philips TriMedia architecture is an uncommon CPU architecture that is still available on the market.
  • Reverse engineering the TriMedia architecture presents challenges due to the lack of information and resources available.
  • The speaker examines an IoT device with a TriMedia CPU to show the steps taken to access the camera and the inner workings of the architecture.
  • The speaker is working on creating a free and open processor module for the TriMedia architecture.
  • More documentation and affordable tools are needed for amateurs to work with the TriMedia architecture.
The speaker shares that they enjoy learning and breaking into different systems, including breaking SO4 protections as a teenager. They also share their experience of finding a TriMedia CPU in an IP camera and the lack of information available on the architecture.


In today's Intel/AMD and ARM controlled world, it's always interesting, for a reverse engineer, to find new or uncommon CPU architectures to learn and play with. It's a challenge to deal with uncommon/unknown firmware files and weird file formats and try to unravel what's behind them. This allows us to continuously improve and expand our knowledge. If you are willing to learn new stuff, this talk is for you.In this presentation, by inspecting an IoT device, you will see an examination of the architectural and functional aspects of the Philips TriMedia architecture, an 'obscure' CPU that makes you think you are in the darkest corner of the reverse engineering (RE) world. You'll see some characteristics of the architecture itself and the inner workings of the CPU, its assembly language (instruction set, encoding and decoding), and the toolset available at the moment to work with this architecture.