Creating a DNS Black Hole for Captive Portal Clients

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If all portal clients must be directed to a single page, but the clients can fail to redirect due to flaky DNS resolution or missing DNS entries, a DNS "Black Hole" can be setup that will resolve all queries to a single IP address.

Setup BIND

On FreeBSD

On a full FreeBSD system, BIND is included in the base system on version 9.x and earlier. On FreeBSD 10.x and later, bind can be installed from ports.

On pfSense

To setup the BIND service on a pfSense box, the DNS forwarder must first be disabled or moved to another port. Then add the BIND package. This can be installed from the CLI or by using the GUI package

pkg_add -r
mkdir -p /etc/namedb/

This configuration is not currently possible in the BIND pfSense package GUI without using a manual configuration. The zone file could be created manually and referenced in advanced options of the package.

Create the configuration file

Edit /etc/namedb/named.conf (use vi, ee, or scp the file over). If an existing BIND config is present, it can be altered to work with this zone. A basic config is given here that will let it run, but it can be tweaked in various ways.

options {
	directory	"/etc/namedb";
	pid-file	"/var/run/named/pid";
	allow-query	{ any; };
	allow-recursion	{ any; };
zone "." {
	type master;
	file "/etc/namedb/db.catchall";

Create the zone file

Edit /etc/namedb/db.catchall - use the IP address of the web server in place of in the blow example.

$TTL    604800
@       IN      SOA     . root.localhost. (
                              1         ; Serial
                         604800         ; Refresh
                          86400         ; Retry
                        2419200         ; Expire
                         604800 )       ; Negative Cache TTL

	IN	NS	.
.	IN	A
*.	IN	A

Start BIND

Start the bind service by hand for now (a startup script will be covered later):

# named -u bind

Initial Testing

Test a host that exists:

# host
Using domain server:
Aliases: has address

Test a host that does not exist:

# host
Using domain server:
Aliases: has address

Adjust the web server

If the *. record is pointed at the web server directly, ensure that the web server is configured to answer for all hostnames, and not just one virtual host.

It is probably also advisable to setup a forward for non-existing files to /, that way if someone requests a full URL, they won't be greeted with a 404 error, but get the index page instead. That should only matter if they request a page after the initial portal redirect.

Configure a BIND startup script

A simple startup script like this can be placed in /usr/local/etc/rc.d/ :


rc_start() {
	# start
	if [ "" = "`ps auxwww | grep '[n]amed ' | awk '{print $2}'`" ]; then
		/usr/local/sbin/named -u bind

rc_stop() {
	killall -9 named 2>/dev/null

case $1 in

Configure DHCP

Next, configure the DHCP service for the Captive Portal subnet to hand out the newly created DNS server to the clients.

Final Testing

The only step left is to try it on the clients. Fire up a browser, try a non-existant domain ( for example) and the browser should be redirected to the target web server no matter what domain was requested.