Cats may be cute and furry, but they may also be a threat to network security, according to a talk Gene Bransfield is scheduled to give at this weekend’s DEF CON hacker conference.
In the presentation, titled “Weaponizing Your Pets,” Bransfield, principle security engineer for Tenacity Solutions, will describe how he outfitted a cat with a collar containing a relatively simple device in order to identify weak Wi-Fi networks wherever the cat roamed.
Bransfield uses the latest evolution of a technique that began in the early days of the internet, originally known as wardialing, which used modems to cycle through numbers and identify vulnerable computers across the internet. As Wi-Fi networks became more common, the technique shifted to wardriving, which involves driving around with an antenna to pick up vulnerable networks. Bransfield has dubbed his latest iteration of the technique the “War Kitteh” collar.
His device is simple and can be assembled for less than $100. To build the War Kitteh collar, Bransfield took an ordinary cat collar and attached a Spark Core chip loaded with his own custom software, a Wi-Fi card, a small GPS module, and a battery to power it all, Wired reports.
After attaching the collar to his wife’s grandmother’s cat, the cat’s wanderings around the neighborhood uncovered 23 Wi-Fi networks, more than a third of which were either completely unsecured or used only the outdated, highly vulnerable WEP encryption.
Bransfield originally got the idea for the War Kitteh collar after an audience member at another of his presentations told him about a GPS-equipped collar she used to track her own cat, he said in a statement issued by Tenacity Solutions.
The collar was never intended as a serious hacking tool but rather simply a funny idea to illustrate the concept. However, Bransfield noted that the results are particularly revealing in regard to the state of Wi-Fi security.
“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 told Wired.