Cat Snoops Neighborhood Wi-Fi With 'WarKitteh' Smart Collar

As the owner of two cats that have been indoor pets their entire lives, I couldn't imagine letting them wander outdoors. If that wasn't the case, though, I know exactly what I'd do: I'd make their adventure, my adventure. That's just what security researcher Gene Bransfield did with the help of his wife's grandmother's cat. With a collar loaded with a Spark chip, a Wi-Fi module, a GPS module, and a battery, Coco the cat helped Gene identify Wi-Fi networks around the neighborhood and then reported back.

I'm sure the goal here is obvious: Discover all of the unsecured, or at least poorly-secured, wireless access points around the neighborhood. During his journey, Coco identified dozens of Wi-Fi networks, with four of them using easily-broken WEP security, and another four that had no security at all.

As Wired mentions, this kind of activity is reminiscent of "wardriving", which involves driving around with a laptop and strong Wi-Fi antenna to seek out unsecure networks. In 2004, I did a bit of this while visiting a friend in Los Angeles, and despite that being ten years ago, the sheer number of wireless spots that popped-up on my laptop was simply jaw-dropping. You can only imagine how things have changed today.

Coco the Smart Collar-wearing Cat

Gene has dubbed his collar the "WarKitteh", and it cost him less than $100 to make. He admits that such a collar isn't a security threat, but more of a goofy hack. Of course, it could be used for shadier reasons: People could send their cat out with the same collar, identify open Wi-Fi connections, and thanks to the bundled GPS chip remembering their exact locations, they could be later visited to perform some less-than-honest tasks on someone else's Wi-Fi. What I can't help but wonder is how many open Wi-Fi connections out there could lead to network shares - I sure wouldn't mind tossing a how-to on someone's C:\ telling them how they could secure their wireless.

Ultimately, what this really highlights is the fact that there are way too many unsecured/unprotected Wi-Fi spots out there, and the fact of the matter is, they could be used for illegal purposes. If something illegal is done on your line, it's going to be awfully difficult to prove that it was an outside party's doing, and it might not even matter since you were careless enough to leave that line open.

Regardless of any of that, one thing's for certain: The WarKitteh is undeniably ameowzing.

Tags:  security, wireless