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August 2, 2017 AT 5:00 am

#WiFiCactus: When You Need to Know About Hackers #WearableWednesday #defcon #wearabletech #DIY

As I was zooming through the Tweets from Defcon I came across the mac-daddy of wearables. This is the #WiFiCactus created by Mike Spicer (@d4rkm4tter), and I can guarantee that this will be on my top ten list for the year! If anyone remembers the episode of Silicon Valley where the team is at Hooli-Con hiding the pineapples, then you know exactly what this wearable is all about. I tracked Mike down to interview him about this hilarious yet functional piece.

What is the capability of the Cactus?

The #WifiCactus has 50 total WiFi radio that are being used for passive monitoring of the wireless devices near it. It is capable of detecting common WiFi threats including the newly released BroadPwn vulnerability which was publicly released at BlackHat on the July 27th. This is helpful in an environment like DEF CON where you have an estimated 25k attendees who all have wireless devices doing many different things.

WiFiCactus Parts

Why did you make it?

You typically hear that DEF CON and BlackHat are the most dangerous networks in the world and I wanted evidence to show what the actual risks are. I believe it is important to not just know that there are risks, but to understand how they work so that you can properly protect yourself. I also wanted to see how many people would heed the advice to connect to trusted encrypted networks, disable WiFi or enable airplane mode. During one of my demo labs I saw 14k active devices in range of the Cactus. I was not expecting this number of devices but I am not surprised because people want to be constantly connected to the internet.

What parts did you use?

The Cactus is made up of 25 Hak5 Pineapple Tetra routers, an Intel NUC, 2 Cisco 16 port switches, a 500-watt 12v power supply, a 10-amp 12v to 5v DC converter, 120 neopixels, an Arduino Micro, and 30-amp hour battery. The Cactus also includes custom machined plastic frames for supporting the Tetras as well as machined aluminum plates and a handle to secure them. To make the rig mobile, it is fitted on an open hiking frame.

WiFi Cactus in the wild

What were people’s reactions?

I was blown away by people’s reaction to the Cactus. Nearly everywhere I went people would stop me to ask what it was and if they could take pictures of it. This turned into an excellent opportunity to discuss wireless vulnerabilities and how to detect them. Everyone’s enthusiasm made this project an absolute success!

Any shout-outs?

I couldn’t have done this project without the help of Hak5 who sponsored the Pineapple, Tetras Kismet Wireless (kismetwireless.net) who provided custom software changes for my use case, my friends for building and programming everything with me, and the hacker community who continues to challenge me and provide feedback which helps me continually improve. I would not be where I am without DEF CON and my hacker family.

Thanks so much to Mike for sharing his awesome project, complete with NeoPixels and pineapples. He continues to help others learn about security risks and you can catch him October 10th-13th at Saintcon in Provo, Utah. Hey Mike, you might want to shift the NeoPixels to form a halo for that one. If you are in need of some LEDs we’ve got the Neopixels you are looking for. Keep your security safe and colorful.

Adafruit Neopixels


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