Roll Your Own Captive Portal

A lot of businesses these days, especially small cafes, coffeee shops and restaurants, offer free WIFI services to their customers.

The problem is, many of these wireless devices are left wide open and unsecured because customers and business owners do not want to deal with the hassle of locked down services.

An alternative is to sign up for expensive “portal” services that  creates a “landing page” for the customer where they can sign up for the use of wireless services. But what if you can create your own so-called captive portal and hand out one-time use login credentials to customers who actually spend money in your business environment?

Let’s say you own a coffee shop, and you see a customer lugging a laptop when they walk up to order coffee. You can hand them a piece of paper with a login username and password that is good for two hours of free browsing. After the two hours, they can pack up and leave, or order another cup off coffee.

The good folks from the Open Source community have several tools available that you can use in building your own customized captive portal with your logo, business information and a little word of encouragement for your customers.

One such tool is the FreeBSD based pfSense. It runs as a LiveCD and can be installed on an old Pentium II computer with as little as 1GB hard drive and 128MB of RAM.