Geek News
Wireless network worries? Get a dog!

posted 9:57am EST Tue Aug 05 2003 - submitted by Matthew

The halls of DefCon in Las Vegas this year have seen more than the feet of thousands of visitors ... they have been joined by the wheels of a robot security dog. The dog, which has yet to be named, is the work of the Schmoo Group, a group of security, system, and network professionals out to provide security resources.

The robot was designed specifically with wireless network security in mind, and is aimed at large corporations and government institutions that are paranoid about their security. The dog weighs around 40 pounds and can travel at the speed of a fast walk; power is supplied from batteries that last up to three hours. By connecting the robot to a network via a wireless connection it can travel around an installation finding out where the weaknesses and security holes are and reporting them back to its "master."

The Schmoo Group believes there is a need for such a device due to the growing popularity of wireless networks and the problem of finding out what their coverage area is. Different hardware and the specific type of antennas used can affect the range greatly, making it very difficult to know if a network is completely secure. The robot dog solves this problem and constantly checks the network by travelling around a given area.

Currently the dog has to be controlled by a human for movement because it cannot sense objects in its way. This will hopefully be rectified in a future version.

Read more at CNET.

This is an interesting solution to a growing problem: knowing exactly where your network can be accessed from. Sure, you can check this by walking around your building and trying to gain access, but in a large corporation this would take a very long time--and what happens if an aerial is upgraded somewhere or you miss a spot?

The use of a fast moving robot allows you to have your network constantly checked, with the information relayed back to a computer. The robot also has the advantage of being able to detect passwords and possibly stop rogue access. Having a small army of these robots in a large installation would go a long way towards improving security.

No costs have been mentioned yet, and there are some major problems still to face, like the lack of obstacle detection and the poor battery life. I am sure the battery issue could be solved by instructing the dog to go to a charging station when the battery is low, but the obstacle detection involves more thought.

Simple object collision avoidance is easy enough, but mapping out a route for the dog to take to make sure an entire network area is checked would be a bit more difficult. It needs to use some kind of sensory system and a map. I am sure the researchers will come up with a solution soon enough.

For the time being this is just a nice prototype that governments will want if it can be proved to work. Although we may see it at next year's DefCon in an improved state, I think it may be some time before it is released to the market.

USER COMMENTS 13 comment(s)
Woof Woof (10:35am EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
Woof Woof Woof - by Woof
who let the dawgs out? (11:18am EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
What will they do about the coolant leaks around the fire hydrants?

I have dogs, they tend to dig their own security holes.

I bet their bark is worse than their byte.

Okay, I have quit now..

- by Geekzilla
Near miss? (11:51am EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
Seems to me that the big concern would be the security leaks OUTSIDE of the building, like on public roads or sidewalks. If this thing could wander around the streets without being lifted (like that is going to happen), they may be on to something. - by M@
Hmmm interesting Idea (11:57am EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
Honestly, I think these uses for Robots are just the start of a Huge Industry. This and the AIBO are good examples of what is to come. Course, we have the not so nice examples such as the security guards being placed in museums that are armed and deadly. But I think its inevitable that we will have robots in all facets of life at some point. - by Eric the Red
re: robots in all facets of life (12:40pm EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
I can't resist...

"Eat recycled food.. It's good for the environment.. and OK for you..."

(from Judge Dredd, the food service robot).
- by old sampler
logic leap (1:14pm EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
ok, i understand why the need exists for a portable quick network access checking device, but the robot dog aspect just seems like a rediculous gimmick. now i'm all for rediculous gimmicks if they work, but not if they require a level of technology not currently available. somewhere in the brainstorming process at schmoo, someone stood up and said "i know, let's make it a robotic dog." IMHO that person should have been laughed out of the meeting. - by roulph
??? (2:50pm EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
Not sure how this works exactly. I mean, if you have WEP or some form of encryption accross your network, or only allow certain users onto your wireless network, then what difference does it make where in the wireless network range you are?

It sounds like this robot will tell you that 20 feet away from some access point, suddenly your security doesn't work anymore? How does 20 feet away different from 10 feet away? What difference does an antenae make?

I think the biggest modivaition for getting IT guys to secure their network is to tell them that they will lose 1/10th of their pay everytime the network is hacked because of an unchecked default setting, or uninstalled security patch. I think after these guys go without pay for several months, they will quickly figure out how to set those wireless AP's to prevent external access. Time to bring some fear to these Coke drinking, expense account draining, so called professionals.
- by Topher
wait a minute... (3:55pm EST Tue Aug 05 2003)
didn't they have these in StarWars? Remember those little black "lunch box on a RC car" looking droids that were used by the Empire. Now they'll be patrolling corporate campuses testing and reporting on wireless network strength and security...I wonder what they "did" in StarWars? Just a thought.

Anyway, sounds a bit immpractical, especially if this is all they can do. Then again, not sure if I'd want these things snooping around everywhere, armed with a microphone and digital camera.
- by Sirhc
Confused (2:39am EST Wed Aug 06 2003)
Someone enlighten me, please:

I thought a wireless network was as "secured" as a normal network, identifying the users it gives access to.

How can it be secure here, and insecure 10 meters away?
- by Hiddenson
Some comments... (3:26am EST Wed Aug 06 2003)
Hi there folks,

Thanks for the comments & questions. It's designed to do ongoing patrols of large wireless networks, looking for rouge APs & users based on MAC & location.

The point of mobile is that you can't see very far with WIFI - - if your company needs more than one AP, then you'll need to move in order to monitor all of them, or plug a monitoring device in with each AP. This gets costly at large companies, so this bot will poll each AP & wireless device on a campus while roaming around.

It can also provide ongoing 24/7 security, running on 'cron' it's cheaper than having to pay a security network admin to do this, I would think..

As for battery life, we are working on designing a mobile automatic solution for that.

Future models may be able to connect up with a cat5 plug in a wall. :)

If you have any questions, shoot us some mail.

RE: digging security holes - - our dog will not do much digging. :P - by ericj
ericj (12:37pm EST Wed Aug 06 2003)
Thank you for your comments as well. Maybe you should reserve

steal this

Just like in Terminators 2 and 3 I could see a rouge hacker take the robot, reprogram it, and send it back out to look for security holes on a campus-wide wireless network.

If they are creative enough, they could re-program it to report as normal to the sys admin and then send top secret security data out right under their noses using their own network thus creating their own liabilty nightmare.

In this case their byte WOULD be worse than their bark.

I know, I know..that's STILL not funny. - by Geekzilla
Robots have no games. (1:53pm EST Wed Aug 06 2003)
Robots have no games.

No Games! - by iRobot
ykfyugkujkkj (9:20am EST Wed Mar 03 2004) - by ghjnvjnjhn

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