Skip to main content

Say hello to WarKitteh, a cat collar that sniffs out weakly encrypted and unprotected Wi-Fi networks

warkitteh cat collar detects weak wi fi encryption
Image Source: Image used with permission by copyright holder
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.

Related: How to secure a wireless network

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.

Related: Best Internet speed tests

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.

Danger, kitty!

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.

Konrad Krawczyk
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Konrad covers desktops, laptops, tablets, sports tech and subjects in between for Digital Trends. Prior to joining DT, he…
Best Dell laptop deals: Cheap laptops on sale from $300 to $2,000
dell xps 13 9310 specs price release date 02

Dell is almost universally considered one of the best laptop brands, and that may lead many to believe it can be hard to get a Dell laptop at a discount. Dell, however, is always coming up with some of the best laptop deals, and that’s certainly the case right now. Many of the best Dell laptop deals include newer models, but you’ll also find some impressive discounts on laptops that are a generation or two old yet still managing to hold their own. We’ve rounded up all of the best Dell laptop deals out there, so read onward for more details on how to land some savings.

Dell Inspiron 15 -- $300, was $330

Read more
You’ll have to wait a long time for a Steam Deck 2
Steam Deck sitting on a pink background.

Just as we started getting excited at the prospect of a Steam Deck 2, it now seems that gamers will have to wait a lot longer for the handheld. According to a recent statement, Valve is not looking to release the new Steam Deck for at least a couple more years. Will the console be able to stay competitive against its rivals?

Pierre-Loup Griffais, the designer of Steam Deck and a rep for Valve, spoke to The Verge and revealed some information about the future of the gaming handheld. While the company has plans to upgrade, it's playing it safe and doesn't see that happening until late 2025 at the very least -- but it could be even longer than that.

Read more
Best gaming PC deals: Powerful gaming rigs starting at $860
young woman playing video games on a PC

Gaming PC deals are important to the gaming community in a way that few outside of it can truly understand.

If you play games on a Nintendo or Playstation, for example, all you have to do is wait for gaming console deals that match your preferences and buy things up quickly. They come around at predictable intervals, though, and once you get a console you can feel confident you'll be able to play every game released for it. If you have a Playstation 5, for instance, you can rest assured that you'll be able to play all of the best Playstation 5 games. It requires a sort of stoic patience, but there is a sense of assuredness at every step of the process.

Read more