How To: Using m0n0wall to create a Wireless Captive Portal


The freedom of wireless networking is now a reality for everybody with a suitably equipped device. At one time too expensive for everything other than corporate use on a business network, Wi-Fi is now mainstream. In many respects, this is due to Intel's extensive marketing of its Centrino brand, launched in mid-March 2003.

Despite concerns over the relative insecurity of WEP encryption, wireless networks are everywhere. The speed increase and value for money offered by 802.11g has only accelerated the take-up, increasingly by home users attracted by being able to network computers together and share broadband Internet connections.

It is not just home users that now want to share access. Taking lead from the big-boys such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee and McDonalds among others, even the small coffee shop and diner owner wants to provide wireless Internet access as a value-added service to their laptop PC and PDA using customers. The D-Link Airspot and SAGEM F@st range of Hotspot Gateways are two of a number of commercial devices that have been developed specifically for this growing market complete with user control, ticket printers and billing.

However there is another more altruistic group of wireless Internet providers such as NYCwireless (New York City), Socal Free Net (San Diego) in the USA and Airwan (Cardiff) and Pier To Pier (Brighton) in the UK. These community projects are driven by people willing to share spare bandwidth on their Internet connections with the public at large for free.

Here though, free is as in 'free beer', rather than free as in 'freedom'. While members of these groups are more than happy for their spare bandwidth to be used, the last thing they want is for their bandwidth to be abused. The functionality in m0n0wall can assist in giving a degree of control over this.