Need some help from someone more knowledgeable than I

Discussion in 'Networking Issues' started by ExploreMN, Sep 3, 2006.

  1. ExploreMN

    ExploreMN LI Guru Member

    Hi everyone!

    Okay, I'm trying to help a struggling business near where I live. It’s a small family owned coffee shop. They provide free wireless internet to people and this information has gotten around. Enter the problem: now the owner is plagued with people just driving up and using the internet from the parking lot, sometimes killing the bandwidth for the customers inside. We can't adjust the signal strength because doing so cuts off sections of the store.

    What we wanted to do was have it so a customer would have to come in and buy something to get a username and password to log in to the internet. This would basically give them an all-day pass as long as they are a paying customer. Every day an employee would just create a new random password (or user and password) to use for that day.

    I tried looking for a freeware proxy server that requires that would fit the bill and could run on a crappy P-II 450 system I have laying around, but nothing was forthcoming. Then someone on the "free proxy" website recommended that I come here for something that can be done to a Linksys router that would allow for this type of thing. I've looked and looked and can't find anything along these lines. Does anyone know what I can do to help our poor neighborhood coffee shop?
  2. mikeyung

    mikeyung Network Guru Member

    An quick & easy way would be to disable the Wireless SSID Broadcast & change the Wireless Network Name regularly.

    Give that a try. It may be enough to deter most of the parking lot users & restore the bandwidth of paying customers to an acceptable level. If not let us know. I'm sure the people on this board can come up with something harder to crack.
  3. HennieM

    HennieM Network Guru Member

    You can do plenty with a "crappy P-II 450" running Linux....

    An easy, albeit very manual, way, might be to just enable authentication/encryption (WPA-PSK) on the wireless AP, and just change the passkey every day. This way all wireless users use the same "username/password", but it's valid only for that day.
    Problem might be that not all customers' wireless cards support WPA-PSK, but I think those will be minimal.
  4. Esquire

    Esquire Mesquire Staff Member Member

    Disabling SSID and changing it won't do much good - the effectiveness or the lack thereof of this practice has been discussed many times before.

    A daily encryption key is the only way to go, however, you'd be surprised at the number of 802.11b adapters in use on many older notebooks that do not support WPA, so the more cumbersome and less secure WEP may be the way forward if the network requires broader security compatibility.
  5. ExploreMN

    ExploreMN LI Guru Member

    Well, that would be easy enough for most people...but remember, a lot of the people working there are not so tech savy as to log into their router and change the security. I was hoping to find something that could run from their back office with a GUI. Not to mention that most customers are not going to know how to enter an encryption code on their computers too.

    I wish I knew what schools and other places used. I know at my college to log into the wireless network from my own laptop I opened up a browser and was automatically taken to a login page where I had to enter in my user name and password. It was easy enough for any customer to do and it was secure (or at least secure enough) to keep out random drive by people.

    Oh well, I guess I just need to keep looking. I can't believe I am the ONLY person out there with this issue. :(
  6. Guyfromhe

    Guyfromhe Network Guru Member

    Heres a couple things you could try:

    The best option would be a dedicated device, I know d-link makes a router made for hotels and it has a interface for hotel staff that doesn't require much computer knowledge, all they enter is the persons name and how long they get access for and it prints out a username and password for the customer to use... this is fairly pricey somewhere between $600 - $800.

    You could also have the staff add mac addresses of customers which would require a bit of training, most cards have the mac written on them and laptops have a sticker with the mac on it.

    A wep key would be decently secure and compatable (lets face it, most people won't bother going to the trouble of cracking a wep key just to run bittorrent on someones connection when theres a zillion other open APs) but would require knowldge on the customers part.

    You could also just go check outside and if someone was sitting in their car with a laptop, shoo them.. you could install nocat splash and have a thing you need to agree to that says you will only use it if your a cusotmer of the store at the time which may discourage some people if you put some legal mumbojumbo and something about being procecuted in there.

    Just a few ideas to think about.
  7. HennieM

    HennieM Network Guru Member

    Some vesions of dd-wrt firmware has Chillispot built-in, which is for managing hotspots I understand. Other (the dd-wrt micro versions) has the option to redirect to a web page to dis/allow access.

    Check out

    However, IMHO, most of these will require more IT know-how than changing an encryption key.
  8. Guyfromhe

    Guyfromhe Network Guru Member

    I think beating with a stick is pretty IT light.
    The D-link soloution while pricey is still the easiest option...
  9. DocLarge

    DocLarge Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    I've got an even better suggestion that's considerably less expensive but will slide in nicely...

    Spend $139 and get yourself a WRV54G and sign up for "Boingo:" (Product Info) (Buy the WRV54G here) (Sign up for boingo)

    Make sure you go ahead and get the Linksys-Cisco 7dbi High gain antennae for better wireless coverage (I did and it goes great with my WRV54G)

    Yes, the WRV54G got bad press in the beginning, but that's because Linksys was "F'ing around" trying to find the right mix of of firmware. I can attest "strongly" that the WRV54G is a stable unit with the following firmware: 2.37.13, 2.38, and 2.38.6. It comes with a Intel425X processor which makes it a "monster."

    So, for a grand total of $176 (minus tax) you could have a wireless hotpsot you can control from the shop or at home...

    Provided you want to spend this little bit of "coin," what you want is do-able.

  10. Guyfromhe

    Guyfromhe Network Guru Member

    I was under the impression that you had to pay bonigo to use a boingo access point, and that the shop owner had no control over which bonigo customers could and could not access their internet connection. I don't really feel like reading the whole boingo website but you may want to make sure it does what you want before you buy any hardware
  11. DynamicArk

    DynamicArk Guest

    Building a Secure Hotspot

    There are a bunch of Software Packages out there but if your looking for a quick fix check out.

    Otherwise your loooking at a lot of work or a lot of money

    There are some great free tools to setup a secure site on linux

    or there are companies out there that sell RSA boxes for what you are looking for,

    I guess I should ask How many users, 1st
    and How much are you willing to spend.
  12. Guyfromhe

    Guyfromhe Network Guru Member

    The problem here is not data being inscure the problem is non-customers of the coffee shop using the bandwidth of the paying customers who are entitled to use that bandwidth. ipig won't really help that, less networks may but from what I saw from a glace over it it allows users to sign up on their global site for free access at the location whenever they want wether they are a paying customer of the shop at the time or not.
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