Years ago industry experts may have laughed at the idea of a cat-turned WiFi spy. Last month a security researcher named Gene Bransfield showcased what he called the “War Kitteh” at the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas. Using a series of tools programmed into a cat collar, Bransfield designed the War Kitteh to sniff out unsecure wireless networks.
The collar was outfitted with a Spark Core chip (an operating system for cloud-connected things) with custom-coded firmware, a WiFi chip, a battery and a miniature GPS device. With the War Kitteh wrapped around its neck, Bransfield sent Coco the Siamese cat out on the prowl in a DC neighborhood.
Coco’s location was tracked using GPS technology with data stored on an SD memory card. After a three hour prowling session, she returned with some useful data for Bransfield and his team. In that short span of time, the War Kitteh successfully tracked 23 WiFi hotspots, a third of which were exposed to outside hackers.
Four networks were completely exposed, requiring no password to connect. Another four routers were using outdated, easily broken WEP encryption. According to Bransfield, this brought to light the fact that there is not much public awareness with respect to WiFi encryption. Using the WPA2 standard instead of less secure encryption methods, ensures your personal information is kept safe from potential hackers.
Who knew mixing pets with wireless security was a good idea? Bransfield’s aim was to bring more attention to the fact that rogue, unsecure wireless networks can be susceptible to a variety of problems, including a “man-in-the-middle attack”, which involves a perpetrator hacking into the network and intercepting information between two unsuspecting parties.
Sounds like being a “cat person” may become a trend one of these days. Bransfield hopes this startling research is a wake up call to individuals unaware of the risks involved when using unencrypted networks to connect to WiFi.