This time, I write about the scenario, using Aruba Instant with external captive portal. With external portal, I did not mean ClearPass. It can be a simple web server, with a simple web page, hosing the captive portal. I show, how to send back the information to Instant AP and get the user online.

How Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal Works

In addition to the internal captive portal, the Aruba Instant solution also offers the ability to use an external captive portal for user authentication. As with the internal captive portal, every new user, gets redirected to the external captive portal. From that stage, the next steps depends on the defined process. Let’s assume, an easy username password login. The user insert username and password. Afterwards, the external captive portal sends those information back to the Instant AP. The Instant AP authenticates the user, either with the internal or external radius server. Depending on the answer, the client gets access or is redirected to the external captive portal page, again.

Another scenario could be, that the page shows the terms and conditions and the user checks the accept check mark to get access.

It is also possible to create a full self subscription architecture with an external radius server. The user gets the redirect to the external captive portal and subscribes to a guest service. The captive portal creates the user in the radius server and send the credentials to the client. With those credentials, the user can sign in to the external captive portal. The Instant AP authenticates the user, using the previously mentioned radius server.

In this post, I cover the first two scenarios. One page to login with the internal radius server and a page with only the terms and conditions. I share my created HTML code here, to make it even easier to reproduce.

How to Configure the External Captive Portal

The external captive portal on Aruba  Instant is a separate profile. You can have multiple profiles and assign them to SSID’s or user roles.

To create an external captive portal profile connect to the Instant AP. Open the Security options and select External Captive Portal:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - Add New Captive Portal Profile

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – Add New Captive Portal Profile

You see a list of available external portal profiles. You can edit existing profiles or create a new one. To create a new one, click the “New” button:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - External Captive Portal Profile Options

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – External Captive Portal Profile Options

You get a list of options. I will not explain all of them as you can find here a complete description. The following options are the most important ones, to start:

  • Name: This field is mandatory and have to be unique. Don’t make the name to long.
  • Type: You have two options here
    • Radius Authentication: The external captive portal sends the username and the password back to the Instant AP. With the username password combination the Instant AP sends the authentication request to a radius server.
    • Authentication Text: The external captive portal authenticates the user without the Instant AP. To tell the Instant AP about the outcome of the authentication, the external captive portal includes the Authentication Text into the page, which is send to the user.
  • Server offload: This option redirects only web traffic to the portal. App traffic is not redirected. This can save resources on the external captive portal.

Finally save the new profile with the click on the “OK” button.

Bind the External Captive Portal Profile to a SSID

The next step is to create a new SSID and configure the external captive portal for that SSID. First, click on “New” in the network section:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - Add new SSID

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – Add new SSID

This opens the SSID wizard. On the first page, assign a name to the SSID and click “Next”:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - WLAN Settings

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – WLAN Settings

On the next page, you configure the VLAN. To make it simple in the first place, leave the default settings:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - VLAN

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – VLAN

Now, we are getting to the interesting stuff. The following page includes the portal stuff. Select “external” for the “Splash page type” and also select the created external captive portal profile for “Captive portal profile”. The rest can stay with defaults:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - Security

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – Security

Click next to get to the last page in the wizard. This page includes the access policies. For this example, leave it as it is. You can further enhance security by modifying those parameters:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - Access

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – Access

After you click “Finish” the SSID is ready to use. The AP starts to broadcast the SSID and any new user will be redirected to the external captive portal page.

Create the Captive Portal Page for Username Password

In the previous part, the Instant AP was configured to redirect new clients to an external captive portal. The next step, is to create the captive portal page.

For my setup, I use a small Linux VM running apache web server to host the page. When the user is redirected to the page, the Instant AP attached additional information to the url. Those information can help to select the best portal page for that user. For my example, the information send from the Instant AP are those:

/login.html?
cmd=login&
mac=60:f4:45:0b:28:66&
essid=captive-portal-test&
ip=172.31.98.53&
apname=00%3A0b%3A86%3Aed%3Ad0%3Af0&
apmac=00%3A0b%3A86%3Aed%3Ad0%3Af0&
vcname=instant-ED%3AD0%3AF0&
switchip=securelogin.arubanetworks.com&
url=http%3A%2F%2Fcaptive.apple.com%2Fhotspot-detect.html

You can use the ESSID information to create a unique login page for every SSID, without the need to change something on the Instant AP and to simplify the configuration, by using only one external captive portal profile. Or the APNAME can indicate the branch office or location and the login page can include local information.
For my simple example, I will not use those information.

I will build a simple form with the username and password field and send those information back to AP. The whole html page looks like this:

<!doctype html>
<html lang="de">
 <head>
 <meta charset="utf-8">
 <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
 <title>External Captive Portal with Username</title>
 </head>
 <body>
 <form method="POST" action="https://securelogin.arubanetworks.com/swarm.cgi">
 <input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="authenticate" />
 User Name: <br/> <input type="text" name="user" id="user"/>
 <br/>
 Password: <br/> <input type="password" name="password" id="password"/>
 <br/>
 <input type="submit" value="Login"/>
 </form>
 </body>
</html>

I have a simple form for username and password. It is send to the Instant AP via this url “https://securelogin.arubanetworks.com/swarm.cgi”.

If you changed the default certificate on the Instant AP, you need to adopt the url, to match your certificate.

In the example above, I use only three fields:

  • cmd: need to have the value “authenticate”
  • user: this is the field for the username
  • password: this is the field for the password

There are more fields available. The most useful one is “url”, as you set the next page with this field. Useful to direct users to your own page. There are other options available. They are the same as with the redirect url and can be found here at the bottom of the page.

Captive Portal Page for Authentication Text

I show also the second option, authentication text. First, create a new captive portal profile for authentication text:

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal - Portal Profile for Authentication Text

Aruba Instant with External Captive Portal – Portal Profile for Authentication Text

Save the profile and assign the profile to a SSID. The steps are the same as with the radius authentication.

Second, you have to create a new login page. The new page could look like this:

<!doctype html>
<html lang="de">
 <head>
 <meta charset="utf-8">
 <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
 <meta HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="5">
 <title>External Captive Portal with Authentication Text</title>
 </head>
 <body>
 This is a test page.
 </form>
 </body>
</html>

I have the authentication text “test”. If this string is somewhere in the html page, the user is authenticated. For my example, I simply put the string in the page and refresh the page automatically after 5 seconds.

This makes it very easy to automatically sign in users. It is also possible to create a welcome page, which includes the terms and conditions and an accept button which will bring up a new page, containing the authentication string.

You can get the same, with the radius based solution, by creating a hidden form and send a static username password combination to the Instant AP. This page could look like this:

<!doctype html>
<html lang="de">
 <head>
 <meta charset="utf-8">
 <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
 <title>External Captive Portal with Username</title>
 </head>
 <body>
 <form method="POST" action="https://securelogin.arubanetworks.com/swarm.cgi">
 <input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="authenticate" />
 <input type="hidden" name="user" id="user" value="test" />
 <input type="hidden" name="password" id="password" value="test" />
 <input type="hidden" name="url" ip="url" value="https://www.flomain.de" />
 <input type="submit" value="Login"/>
 </form>
 </body>
</html>

The user gets only the “Login” button and after clicking on the button, the user gets redirected to my page.

That’s the simple default setup and work for most situations. In the next post, I will cover different deployment scenarios.

If you have any questions please use the comment function below. If you would like to provide feedback please contact me or use the comment function as well.