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Mikrotik HotSpot Gateway


The MikroTik HotSpot Gateway enables providing of public network access for clients using wireless or wired network connections.

HotSpot is a way to authorize users to access some network resources. It does not provide traffic encryption. To log in, users may use almost any web browser (either HTTP or HTTPS protocol), so they are not required to install additional software. The gateway is accounting the uptime and amount of traffic each of its clients have used, and also can send this information to a RADIUS server. The HotSpot system may limit each particular user's bitrate, total amount of traffic, uptime and some other parameters mentioned further in this document.

The HotSpot system is targeted to provide authentication within a local network (to access the Internet), but may as well be used to authorize access from outer networks to access local resources. Configuring Walled Garden feature, it is possible to allow users to access some web pages without the need of prior authentication.

Key Features

  • Authentication of Clients using local client database, or RADIUS server
  • Accounting Using Local Database, or RADIUS server
  • Walled-Garden System (accessing some web pages without authorization)
  • Bandwidth Provisioning for hotspot clients
  • Integrated DHCP server for dynamic IP-Addressing
  • Universal Client/One-To-One NAT support
  • Traffic/Bandwidth Monitoring
  • Remote Management via Web Interface
  • Transparent Client support (i.e. does not require any installation on client computers)
  • Support for ISP Advertisements/Notices to clients
  • IP-Level & HTTP-Level Walled-Garden Support
  • Comprehensive Bandwidth & User Reports
  • Customizable Gateway Firewall support
  • Customizable HotSpot Display Page
  • Support for multiple HotSpot Display Pages on same gateway


IP Addressing Overview

First of all, a client must get an IP address. It may be set on the client statically, or leased from a DHCP server. The DHCP server may provide ways of binding lent IP addresses to clients MAC addresses, if required. The HotSpot system does not care how did a client get an address before he/she gets to the HotSpot login page.

Moreover, HotSpot server may automatically and transparently change any IP address (yes, meaning really any IP address) of a client to a valid unused address from the selected IP pool. This feature gives a possibility to provide a network access (for example, Internet access) to mobile clients that are not willing (or are disallowed, not qualified enough or otherwise unable) to change their networking settings. The users will not notice the translation (i.e., there will not be any changes in the users' config), but the router itself will see completely different (from what is actually set on each client) source IP addresses on packets sent from the clients (even firewall mangle table will 'see' the translated addresses). This technique is called one-to-one NAT, but is also known as "Universal Client" as that is how it was called in the RouterOS version 2.8.

One-to-one NAT accepts any incoming address from a connected network interface and performs a network address translation so that data may be routed through standard IP networks. Clients may use any preconfigured addresses. If the one-to-one NAT feature is set to translate a client's address to a public IP address, then the client may even run a server or any other service that requires a public IP address. This NAT is changing source address of each packet just after it is received by the router (it is like source NAT that is performed earlier, so that even firewall mangle table, which normally 'sees' received packets unaltered, can only 'see' the translated address).

Note also that arp mode must be enabled on the interface you use one-to-one NAT on.

Authentication Summary

When enabling HotSpot on an interface, the system automatically sets up everything needed to show login page for all clients that are not logged in. This is done by adding dynamic destination NAT rules, which you can observe on a working HotSpot system. These rules are needed to redirect all HTTP and HTTPS requests from unauthorized users to the HotSpot servlet (i.e., the authentication procedure, e.g., the login page). Other rules that are also inserted, we will describe later in a special section of this manual.

In most common setup, opening any HTTP page will bring up the HotSpot servlet login page (which can be customized extensively, as will be described later on). As normal user behavior is to open web pages by their DNS names, a valid DNS configuration should be set up on the HotSpot gateway itself (it is possible to reconfigure the gateway so that it will not require local DNS configuration, but such a configuration is impractical and thus not recommended).

Walled-Garden Features

Walled garden is a system which allows unauthorized use of some resources, but requires authorization to access other resources. This is useful, for example, to give access to some general information about HotSpot service provider or billing options.

You may wish not to require authorization for some services (for example to let clients access the web server of your company without registration), or even to require authorization only to a number of services (for example, for users to be allowed to access an internal file server or another restricted area). This can be done by setting up Walled Garden system.

When a not logged-in user requests a service allowed in the Walled Garden configuration, the HotSpot gateway does not intercept it, or in case of HTTP, simply redirects the request to the original destination (or to a specified parent proxy). When a user is logged in, there is no effect of this table on him/her.

To implement the Walled Garden feature for HTTP requests, an embedded web proxy server has been designed, so all the requests from not authorized users are really going through this proxy. Note that the embedded proxy server does not have caching function yet. Also note that this embedded proxy server is in the system software package and does not require web-proxy package. It is configurable under /ip proxy

Supported Authentication Methods

There are currently 5 different authentication methods. You can use one or more of them simultaneously:

  • HTTP PAP - simplest method, which shows the HotSpot login page and expect to get the authentication info (i.e. username and password) in plain text. Note that passwords are not being encrypted when transferred over the network. An another use of this method is the possibility of hard-coded authentication information in the servlet's login page simply creating the appropriate link.
  • HTTP CHAP - standard method, which includes CHAP challenge in the login page. The CHAP MD5 hash challenge is to be used together with the user's password for computing the string which will be sent to the HotSpot gateway. The hash result (as a password) together with username is sent over network to HotSpot service (so, password is never sent in plain text over IP network). On the client side, MD5 algorithm is implemented in JavaScript applet, so if a browser does not support JavaScript (like, for example, Internet Explorer 2.0 or some PDA browsers), it will not be able to authenticate users. It is possible to allow unencrypted passwords to be accepted by turning on HTTP PAP authentication method, but it is not recommended (because of security considerations) to use that feature.
  • HTTPS - the same as HTTP PAP, but using SSL protocol for encrypting transmissions. HotSpot user just send his/her password without additional hashing (note that there is no need to worry about plain-text password exposure over the network, as the transmission itself is encrypted). In either case, HTTP POST method (if not possible, then - HTTP GET method) is used to send data to the HotSpot gateway.
  • HTTP cookie - after each successful login, a cookie is sent to web browser and the same cookie is added to active HTTP cookie list. Next time the same user will try to log in, web browser will send http cookie. This cookie will be compared with the one stored on the HotSpot gateway and only if source MAC address and randomly generated ID match the ones stored on the gateway, user will be automatically logged in using the login information (username and password pair) was used when the cookie was first generated. Otherwise, the user will be prompted to log in, and in the case authentication is successful, old cookie will be removed from the local HotSpot active cookie list and the new one with different random ID and expiration time will be added to the list and sent to the web browser. It is also possible to erase cookie on user manual logoff (not in the default server pages). This method may only be used together with HTTP PAP, HTTP CHAP or HTTPS methods as there would be nothing to generate cookies in the first place otherwise.
  • MAC address - try to authenticate clients as soon as they appear in the hosts list (i.e., as soon as they have sent any packet to the HotSpot server), using client's MAC address as username

HotSpot can authenticate users consulting the local user database or a RADIUS server (local database is consulted first, then - a RADIUS server). In case of HTTP cookie authentication via RADIUS server, the router will send the same information to the server as was used when the cookie was first generated. If authentication is done locally, profile corresponding to that user is used, otherwise (in case RADIUS reply did not contain the group for that user) the default profile is used to set default values for parameters, which are not set in RADIUS access-accept message. For more information on how the interaction with a RADIUS server works, see the respective manual section.

The HTTP PAP method also makes it possible to authenticate by requesting the page /login? username=username&password=password . In case you want to log in using telnet connection, the exact HTTP request would look like that: GET /login? username=username&password=password HTTP/1.0 (note that the request is case-sensitive)

Authorization Overview

After authentication, user gets access to the Internet, and receives some limitations (which are user profile specific). HotSpot may also perform a one-to-one NAT for the client, so that a particular user would always receive the same IP address regardless of what PC is he/she working at.

The system will automatically detect and redirect requests to a proxy server a client is using (if any; it may be set in his/her settings to use an unknown to us proxy server) to the proxy server embedded in the router.

Authorization may be delegated to a RADIUS server, which delivers similar configuration options as the local database. For any user requiring authorization, a RADIUS server gets queried first, and if no reply received, the local database is examined. RADIUS server may send a Change of Authorization request according to standards to alter the previously accepted parameters.

Advertisement Support

The same proxy used for unauthorized clients to provide Walled-Garden facility, may also be used for authorized users to show them advertisement popups. Transparent proxy for authorized users allows to monitor http requests of the clients and to take some action if required. It enables the possibility to open status page even if client is logged in by mac address, as well as to show advertisements time after time

When time has come to show an advertisement, the server redirects client's web browser to the status page. Only requests, which provide html content, are redirected (images and other content will not be affected). The status page displays the advertisement and next advertise-interval is used to schedule next advertisement. If status page is unable to display an advertisement for configured timeout starting from moment, when it is scheduled to be shown, client access is blocked within walled-garden (as unauthorized clients are). Client is unblocked when the scheduled page is finally shown. Note that if popup windows are blocked in the browser, the link on the status page may be used to open the advertisement manually.

While client is blocked, FTP and other services will not be allowed. Thus requiring client to open an advertisement for any Internet activity not especially allowed by the Walled-Garden.

Accounting Feature Summary

The HotSpot system implement accounting internally, you are not required to do anything special for it to work. The accounting information for each user may be sent to a RADIUS server

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