Automating guest wireless access for monitoring purposes with Raspberry Pi

I decided to monitor guest wireless access to the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. By that I mean a basic, binary, is it working now or not response. The back end is a Cisco wireless LAN Controller (WLC). Like most such systems there is no WiFi password, but your connection is extremely limited until you authenticate to the WLC login page in a browser. Further, this particular system is configured to only permit usage for up to four hours, after which another authentication is required to continue. The system is pretty reliable overall, but there are lots of pieces involved and I decided it would be nice to be the first to know if it isn’t working. And it’d be nice to put one of my spare Raspberry Pi’s to work in this semi-official capacity.

The details
Let’s cut to the chase. This is what my crontab file looks like:

# added for drj4guest WiFi testing - DrJ 4/26/17
# this line should keep us authenticating...
* * * * * curl -d `cat /home/pi/data` > /dev/null 2>&1
# and this is what we actually touch, where we have a separate monitor looking for it...every 2 minutes
*/2 * * * * curl`perl -e 'print time;'` > /dev/null 2>&1

For this to work I need accurate time on the Raspberry Pi. By default it was in the wrong timezone – UTC instead of EDT – and it had anyway drifted by quite a few seconds. I describe how to fix this all up in this post.

Let’s break this down. The WiFi is known as drj4guest, hence some of the naming conventions you see.

Here is the contents of the file data in /home/pi:


So I meticulously reverse engineered all the fields the login form sends over and figured out what it is doing.

In the data file I put my assigned WiFi login username, john (replace it with yours) and my password, which also needs to be replaced with an appropriate value for your situation.

Then I decided to run an attempted authentication every one minute, while running the query to my web server every two minutes. That is what the */2 field does in my crontab. That way I will always have authenticated first, even when my four hours has run out.

I like that this also tests the authentication that has been set up, as this could also be the cause of a failure.

Meanwhile my web server log gets entries like this one every two minutes: - - [26/Apr/2017:15:12:02 -0400] "GET /raspberrypidrj4guest?1493233922 HTTP/1.1" 404 219 "-" "curl/7.26.0"

On the webserver
On the webserver being accessed by the Ras Pi I have this Perl script:

# check if Raspberry Pi on the DrJ guest WiFi is phoning home
# - DrJ 4/26/17
# to test good to error transition,
# call with a very small maxDiff, such as 0!
use Getopt::Std;
getopts('m:d'); # maximum allowed time difference
$maxDiff = $opt_m;
$DEBUG = 1 if $opt_d;
unless (defined($maxDiff)) {
$monitorName = 'Raspberry Pi phone home';
# access line looks like:
# - - [02/Feb/2013:22:00:02 -0500] "GET /raspberrypidrj4guest?136456789 HTTP/1.1" 200 455 "-" "curl/7.26.0"
$magicString = "raspberrypidrj4guest";
$accessLog = "/var/log/apache202/access.log";
# pick up timestamp in access file
$piTime = `grep $magicString $accessLog|tail -1|cut -d\? -f2|cut -d' ' -f1`;
$curTime = time();
$date = `date`;
# your PID file is somewhere else. It tells us when Apache was started.
# you could comment out these next lines just to get started with the program
$PID = "/var/run/";
($atime,$mtime,$ctime) = (stat($PID))[8,9,10];
$diff = $curTime - $piTime;
if ($curTime - $ctime < $maxDiff) {
  print "Apache hasn't been running long enough yet to look for something in the log file. Maybe next time\n";
print "magicString, accessLog, piTime, curTime, diff: $magicString, $accessLog, $piTime, $curTime, $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
print "accessLog stat. atime, mtime, ctime: $atime,$mtime,$ctime\n" if $DEBUG;
print "Freshness: $diff s\n";
sub usage {
  print "usage: $0 -m <maxDiff (seconds)> [-d (debug)]\n";

It’s designed to be run by SiteScope as a script monitor. You would run it by hand like this:

> ./ ‐m 300

Freshness: 35 s

If that Freshness time grows too large then the Ras Pi hasn’t been phoning home and you – presumably – have a problem somewhere. /var/log/apache202 happens to be where I have my apache access file on that system.

We showed how to set up a Raspberry Pi to monitor Guest WiFi access on a Cisco Wireless LAN Controller, even though the accounts have to re-authenticated every four hours.

References and related
In the consumer space I do something closely related. I use a Ras Pi at home to monitor whether my Internet connection at home is working. The same phone home concept is used.

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