Tips on how to provide a secure public WiFi hotspot – Part 3

February 4, 2016

This the last part of the the series “tips on how to provide a secure public WiFi hotspot”. In the first two parts we concentrated on the wireless and layer 2 and 3 part, this time we take a look at the application layer stuff you should tune to provide a secure hotspot.

Captive Portal and non HTTP traffic

If you want or need to show the user a website before he is able to surf the web, you should not only think about redirecting HTTP to your landing page.  You should reject (send an ICMP error) for all other TCP connection attempts. Why? Many pages are nowadays HTTPS and letting the user wait for a time-out is not nice. Sure technical minded user will not wait, but others may do. Sure this is not a security advice but an usability one. But it does work nice together with following: Don’t try to provide your own TLS certificate to redirect traffic to the captive portal. Users should not be trained to accept error messages and ignore them and it will give your hotspot an bad look security-wise.

There is just nothing you can do to redirect HTTPS URLs. Just make sure that the captive portal detection of modern operating systems work and so the user is told there is a captive portal.

HTTPS for captive portal

If you require any data from the user except accepting the terms of service your captive portal should be HTTPS.  Get an official DNS name for your portal, e.g. portal.<company>.com and a valid TLS certificate. As there are multiple methods for getting free TLS certificate e.g. startssl or let’s encryt, you should get a real one. One thing that is important to whitelist for your captive portal are the OCSP and CRL URLs of your certificate, issuing CA and root CA. To check for the URLs look at the certificate details for all certificates in the chain of your captive portal. Following images show the 2 places for google.com (you need to check also the Google Internet Authority G2 and GeoTrust Gobal CA in this case.)

crl1

crl2

Why, you ask, you should whitelist these URLs? The browsers will check them before showing your captive portal site. Some/Most browsers will fail open, but some will fail close.

Limit and monitor the DNS

If the user has not past the captive portal his only way though the firewall will be the DNS server. You normally need to resolve the requests to the true IP address to guard against problems with false cached DNS entries after the user past the captive portal. As the user is able to craft the requests as he likes it is possible to send data through to a 3rd party DNS server. This setup can be used as DNS tunnel – it will be not fast but its possible to work through it. As nowadays simple howtos like following and OpenSource tools are provided, consider it easily possible for most power users – its not a expert thing any more.

So now comes the question what you can do against it. In this case you don’t need to block the covert channel of sophisticated malware but just script kiddies that want to tunnel through. Your typical user will only need A and AAAA query types. Tunneling is mostly done via TXT as it allows big packets. Following query types are common:

  • Any
  • A
  • AAAA
  • CNAME
  • MX
  • NS
  • SOA

I won’t go into too much detail, but blocking can be done on the DNS server … e.g. if it is a Windows DNS Server (Allow only certain QTypes) or with the Firewall in this case iptables.

Content Filtering via DNS

Often you’re required to filter certain traffic but don’t want to setup and maintain a transparent proxy or with all the HTTPS it does not help that much any more. An easy way is to use the OpenDNS system, which allows to select certain categories which are then blocked on the DNS level (Query will resolve to an error page) . If you redirect all port 53 traffic to your DNS server which uses the OpenDNS ones as recursive DNS servers you should be good for most cases.

SMTP

Just reject (blocking lets the client run into timeouts) TCP port 25, otherwise infected client systems will flood your bandwidth with SPAM mails.  A mail agent should not send mails to the mail server via port 25 anyway.

I hope this article series helped you and leads to more secure hot spots I’m also able to enjoy. 😉

1 Comment »

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  1. Is there no free, all-in-one pre-configured software appliance casual people can use ootb? Don’t get me wrong but this seems to be a lot of work w/ trial and error.

    Comment by manu — February 10, 2016 #

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