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I'd like to know if it is possible to determine a user's location with wi-fi and incorporate that into part of the identification, authentication and authorisation mechanism of the network?

This should be relatively easy if there are various different SSID's for varying roles and responsibilities, choosing a specific network to connect to. However, I'd like to use zero-handoff to provide a seamless experience with only one network name, and use the wi-fi to, amongst others:

  • Ensure that if the device connecting is not within the building then authentication fails.
  • Determine where in the building information is being accessed from and either allow or deny access (i.e. sensitive data from main reception would be denied).

I don't know if this is possible or what I should be searching for to find out about any necessary technologies. I am not a network engineer and my google searches for keywords such as "wifi location based access control" yield nothing of relevance. Is this possible and what technologies (hardware and software) would be needed to enable it?

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It is possible, and there are products on the market that do exactly that. But before you run out and buy one consider:

Your ability to control access is dependent on your ability to determine location. This is in turn dependent on the number of access points you have. The more access points you have, the more accurate your triangulation is. But it's still a rather blunt instrument -- unless you're prepared to spend a lot of money and time tuning, you won't do better than 6-10 feet accuracy.

This requires a controller-based wireless system. If you don't have one already, it can get pricey.

There are probably easier and cheaper ways to control access. Understand the risks you face and see if there are other ways to mitigate them.

  • Thanks Ron. I've been playing around with a few Open Source options and I'll continue to do so. I'm mostly intrigued as I'm trying to move into the IA arena, specifically with wireless technology and BYOD solutions. Having been in a completely different career field for the past decade my knowledge of what is possible is somewhat out of date so I'm experimenting with various ideas, but will leave the vital mechanics to those who actually know what they are doing! I appreciate your response and further research has revealed the pricey-ness you mention! – Ashley Bye Jan 26 '16 at 22:05
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    My feeling is that location-based access control is a lot of money and effort to gain just a little more security. I think there are other methods to protect your data that don't cost so much are difficult to set up and maintain, and are not such a burden on users and administrators. – Ron Trunk Jan 26 '16 at 23:29

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