Connecting to University of Cincinnati's Securewireless with netctl

If you’ve set-up an Arch Linux installation, and you’ve used wifi-menu then you’ve used netctl before and didn’t even know it. netctl is

… a CLI-based tool used to configure and manage network connections via profiles. It is a native Arch Linux project for network configuration.

I used to think that the wifi-menu dialouge was a cute little installer helper program, but I learned later, that it can be used to automatically generate profiles in /etc/netctl that you can subsequently use to reconnect to network later with

# netctl start INTERFACE-SSID

… where INTERFACE is the name of your wireless interface device (see below) and SSID is the “name” of the network.

I was a little disappointed (but not too shocked) when wifi-menu failed to connect to the University of Cincinnati’s Securewireless network. This short guide will discuss the steps needed to connect to Securewireless using netctl, and discuss why these extra steps are needed.

Connect to Securewireless — tl;dr

Create and edit the file /etc/netctl/INTERFACE-Securewireless as root (using sudo). Note that INTERFACE should be the name of your wireless interface. Use ip link to find out what it is. While the interface prefix is not mandatory, it does help you stay organized, wifi-menu adds it by default, and you’ll need it below.

Connection='wireless'
Interface=INTERFACE
Security='wpa-configsection'
Description="UC eduroam-like network"
IP='dhcp'
TimeoutWPA=30
WPAConfigSection=(
    'ssid="Securewireless"'
    'key_mgmt=WPA-EAP'
    'identity="UC_USER_NAME"'
    'password="UC_CENTRAL_LOGIN_PASSWORD"'
)

Where INTERFACE is your wireless interface as described above, UC_USER_NAME is your 6+2 user name without the domain suffix (e.g. smithbb1 not smithbb1@mail.uc.edu), and UC_CENTRAL_LOGIN_PASSWORD is the central login password that you use for all of your UC services. (Leave in the quotes around the actual username and password.)

Details

The magic is in the wpa-configsection/WPAConfigSection. This allows you to step outside of simple WEP/WPA/WPA2 shared passphrase paradigm and set the security stack exactly how you need as if you were setting up wpa_supplicant by hand. There’s a lot you can do here, like connect to an eduroam network or use another pre-agreed upon security certificate, but UC’s setup is pretty simple. If you need to see all of the settings you can put in the WPAConfigSection, see the manual page for wpa_supplicant or look at a sample wpa_supplicant.conf.

University of Cincinnati uses WPA Enterprise much like other universities. According to UC’s IT Handbook (last page)(pdf), Securewireless uses:

Through trial and error, I found the simplest WPAConfigSection needed to successfully connect. ssid is set to Securewireless, the name of UC’s network. key_mgmt=WPA-EAP tells the WPA supplicant to use and identity and password through (Protected) Extensible Authentication Protocol to connect to the network.

I hope that this either helps you connect to Securewireless at UC or points you in the right direction for creating a profile to connect to your WPA Enterprise network at your school/work.

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Written by Tome Dunlap on 13 January 2015