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I live in a building where I am connected to the university network for internet. I am not allowed to connect a router, or I will be kicked off the network. (This rule was created after wrongly configured routers blocked internet access for the entire building.) They expect people to connect their computers all through ethernet.

I have multiple computers including a MBA and an iPad, so I don't plan to abide by this.

I know I could configure one of my Macs for internet sharing, but it would have to be running all the time. Since I own an Airport Express I was hoping I could use it instead. Is there a way to configure the Airport so that the network administrators can't detect I'm using a router?

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3 Answers

Have you tried talking to your campus' Network Administrators? Plead your case! If they ask why, hold up your iPad. You are never going to be running a cable to that thing with the intention of using it on a network. Only power and maybe headphones!

Working with them might let you use your wireless with their recommended settings. Maybe bring the Express with you and let them configure it in the manner they want. Maybe they would prefer you NAT yourself, maybe they would prefer you to Bridge the connections.

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I'm not sure that they are able to detect what you are using to that level at all. When you connect to the Ethernet port, all that is likely to happen is your device, whether it is a laptop or a router will request an IP address via DHCP, which will then be provided with a lease time of anything from an hour to a year.

The only way I can think of that they would be able to detect that this was a router and not a standalone device like a laptop etc would be either:

1) You give it a name like "My Airport Router", which may appear in the DHCP lease list depending on how it has been configured at the server end

2) The lease time is set to something short, and your router is always plugged in in a way that a laptop would not be. If your router renews it's lease every hours for a month straight, chances are it's not a laptop.

To be honest, if I was after stopping this, I would go around wifi snooping instead, let's face it why would you have a wifi network unless if was to aggregate your devices behind a single IP address in order to share the connection?

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Thank you! But then how have routers been able to mess up the network? Or do you think that isn't true? –  Jongsma Oct 19 '11 at 16:31
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Hmmm, hard to say, but I would say that it is either a scare story, or if it did happen, then whoever is the network admin that configured the solution should have been shot for allowing a single rogue device to pull down the network! Best advice I can give is to give the router a sensible PC like name "Jon's Computer", and turn it off when you aren't using it. –  stuffe Oct 19 '11 at 16:36
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And avoid posting your intentions to circumvent their rules on an open forum with your actual picture linked to the question. –  Daniel Lawson Oct 19 '11 at 16:58
    
It's relatively trivial to see (NAT'ed) network traffic, due to the fact that the packet contains references to a different source address than the one being used to communicate to the rest of the world on. Example: 14.82.8.9 is communicating with you, and carrying information about "192.168.34.8". –  Jason Salaz Oct 19 '11 at 17:33
    
@Daniel Haha! I'll quickly grow a beard :) –  Jongsma Oct 19 '11 at 18:58
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I would connect an AirPort express to an ethernet port and configure it so that it does not broadcast the SSID. That way, most people won't even notice that there is a Wi-Fi network available when they browse for available Wi-Fi networks, as you can do on a Windows or Mac laptop or iOS device.

Naturally, your AirPort Wi-Fi network won't be discoverable, which means that your devices won't be able to find it by browsing. But that's okay, since you already know the name for it you will be able to type it manually. And remember, this will only be required the first time you connect to the network. After that, your iPad and Macbook will remember that it is a known network and they will connect to it as if it had been broadcasting its name.

An added advantage of the AirPort express is that it does not look like a conventional router. Most people may see it connected to the wall and may think it's a weird Apple charger of sorts. It's a discrete device and may be just perfect for a dorm room. Hope this helps.

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Thank you for the suggestions. Though I'm not really afraid it will be discovered in such a 'physical' way. As far as I know, I won't get any inspections. And if they manage to trace a SSID to my room, I can just say I use it for Airplay (and quickly unhook the ethernet) :-) –  Jongsma Oct 19 '11 at 18:52
    
I guess my main point was that they won't necessarily know that first hand if you are not broadcasting the SSID. Not making the network discoverable by modifying the AirPort express settings was my main tip. I doubt that the school staff will be sophisticated enough to look beyond discoverable networks. If your SSID is not discoverable, it will be practically hidden. –  Christian Correa Oct 19 '11 at 19:34
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