If the Internet is made of cats, then hold onto your hats, ’cause those same felines might start breaking the Web soon if a device like the WarKitteh falls into the wrong hands.
Gene Bransfield, Principle Security Researcher at Tenacity Solutions, an Internet security firm, was just messing around with his kitty, Coco. At one point, he decided to run a tech experiment, using Coco as his trusty assistant, Wired reports.
What is the WarKitteh?
With the help of Nancy, a relative of Gene’s, they put together a cat collar containing a Spark Core device, a Wi-Fi card, a GPS chip, custom firmware, and a battery to power the whole setup. This is how the WarKitteh, a cat collar that could detect Wi-Fi networks and identify what mode of encryption they used, was born.
With the WarKitteh wrapped around Coco’s neck, Bransfield set the kitty loose on the neighborhood. Coco spent a total of three hours strutting around Bransfield’s area. In that short span of time, the collar detected eight Wi-Fi networks which either used WEP or no encryption at all. WEP is a form of encryption that hackers can easily break into, and hasn’t been rock-solid for years.
A skilled hacker with bad intentions could then take this information and crack into those networks virtually at will. Even worse for those concerned with Wi-Fi security, the WarKitteh was cheap for Bransfield to make. He spent less than $100 building the whole thing from start to finish.
“The result of this cat research was that there were a lot more open and WEP-encrypted hot spots out there than there should be in 2014,” Bransfield says.
When Bransfield realized how many networks were employing WEP, he quickly realized that his exercise in self-amusement revealed a very serious problem with Wi-Fi sercurity. Lots of people are either ignorant or simply ignore the dangers associated with leaving their connections wide open like an uncovered tight end running down an NFL sideline.
Not all is lost, though
Bransfield plans to speak at the DefCon hacker conference, which is taking place now, and runs up until August 10. During his talk, he plans to show off the WarKitteh and shed a light on the sorry state of public awareness with respect to Wi-Fi encryption. He hopes that more people will start to take it seriously, and frankly, so do we.
“Cats are more interesting to people than information security,” Bransfield says. “If people realize that a cat can pick up on their open Wi-Fi hotspot, maybe that’s a good thing.”
One can only hope. While you’re at it, feel free to check out our guide on how to secure a wireless network. You never known when a Wi-Fi snooping furball just might be trotting by your door.