Maybe you’re at a hotel, an airport, a conference, or somewhere else where whoever set up the Wi-Fi thought it was a good idea to use so-called captive portals.

Regardless of their purpose, whether it’s to limit connection for a specific time, or force end-users to accept some kind of agreement, they usually work the same way: they force you through some kind of web UI, and in the end it will validate your device based on the MAC address only.

A MAC address can be changed, which means that if you have a device that cannot access the portal, you can still get that device onto the network by doing the following:

  • Find out the MAC address of the device
  • Change your laptop’s MAC to match the device
  • Go through the validation process
  • Change your laptop’s MAC back to something else

In short, by masquerading your laptop as the other device, you can ensure that MAC address gets whitelisted, giving your other device access.

Step 1: Figure out the MAC address

You may be able to figure out the MAC of the device from a physical sticker, or if it has a settings menu you can probably see it under network settings. In this case, it’s a Samsung TV where the built-in browser can’t handle the web portal. Let’s call it 84:C0:EF:00:00:00.

Step 2: Change your laptop’s MAC

In Linux, this can be done with macchanger, likely available from your package manager. Remember to disable your wifi device first.

sudo macchanger --mac=84:C0:EF:00:00:00 wlp0s20f3

Step 3: Authenticate

With your new MAC address, authenticate to the wifi just like you otherwise would, or if you’re cool, figure out the curl commands to do it. “Network” under the developer console (F12) in Firefox is helpful for this, and can export POST requests as curl which is convenient. It might look something like this:

curl "$URL" -X POST -H 'Accept: */*' -H 'Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.5' \
-H 'Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate, br' \
-H 'Referer:' \
-H 'Content-Type: application/json' -H 'Origin:' \
--cookie-jar '/tmp/cookiejar' \
--data-raw '{"Email":"[email protected]","Password":"f00b4r","PersistentLogin":true,"IsModal":false}'

If there’s multiple steps required, like also accepting terms of usage after a login, the --cookie-jar flag is crucial here to allow the use of --cookie in your next command:

curl "" --cookie '/tmp/cookiejar' 

This allows you to accept the terms with whatever cookies that were given to you when logging in.

If the responses are JSON, you can just pipe them to jq to easily see if all went OK.

Step 4: Reset your MAC again

If you got access working with the modified address in Step 3, you can now switch MAC again on your laptop. In this case, we’ll just pick a random one. Shut down your wireless device again, and run:

sudo macchanger -a wlp0s20f3

You can now re-authenticate your laptop, and when testing the other device, it should be allowed through.

If not, you may need to disable the connection on that device and re-connect to the network. At this point, there shouldn’t be a portal in the way.