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Use Nerves.WpaSupplicant now

This package enables Elixir applications to interact with the local WPA supplicant. The WPA supplicant handles various Wi-Fi operations like scanning for wireless networks, connecting, authenticating, and collecting wireless adapter statistics.

Note on permissions

The wpa_supplicant daemon runs as root and requires processes that attach to its control interface to be root. This project contains a C port process whose sole purpose is to interact with the wpa_supplicant daemon, but it needs sufficient permission to do so. The Makefile contains logic to mark the port process setuid root so that this works, but you may want to change this depending on your setup.


Building wpa_supplicant.ex is similar to other Elixir projects. The Makefile will invoke mix to compile both the Elixir and C source code. The only extra step is to ensure that the permissions are right on the wpa_ex binary. The way this is accomplished is by setting wpa_ex setuid root. By default, when you run make, you'll be asked your password to change permissions.

$ make

If you want to disable the setuid root step in the Makefile, just set the SUDO environment variable to true to make it a nop:

$ SUDO=true make

If you need to use a different askpass program, you can set that as well:

$ SUDO_ASKPASS=/usr/bin/ssh-askpass make


The wpa_supplicant daemon must be running already on your system and the control interface must be exposed. If you have any doubt, try running wpa_cli. If that doesn't work, the Elixir WpaSupplicant won't work.

If you're on a system where you can start the wpa_supplicant manually, here's an example command line:

$ /sbin/wpa_supplicant -iwlan0 -C/var/run/wpa_supplicant -B

Once you're happy that the wpa_supplicant is running, start iex by running:

$ iex -S mix

Start a WpaSupplicant process:

iex> {:ok, pid} = WpaSupplicant.start_link("/var/run/wpa_supplicant/wlan0")
{:ok, #PID<0.82.0>}

You can sanity check that Elixir has properly attached to the wpa_supplicant daemon by pinging the daemon:

iex> WpaSupplicant.request(pid, :PING)

To scan for access points, call WpaSupplicant.scan/1. This can take a few seconds:

iex> WpaSupplicant.scan(pid)
[%{age: 42, beacon_int: 100, bssid: "00:1f:90:db:45:54", capabilities: 1073,
   flags: "[WEP][ESS]", freq: 2462, id: 8,
   ie: "00053153555434010882848b0c1296182403010b07",
   level: -83, noise: 0, qual: 0, ssid: "1SUT4", tsf: 580579066269},
 %{age: 109, beacon_int: 100, bssid: "00:18:39:7a:23:e8", capabilities: 1041,
   flags: "[WEP][ESS]", freq: 2412, id: 5,
   ie: "00076c696e6b737973010882848b962430486c0301",
   level: -86, noise: 0, qual: 0, ssid: "linksys", tsf: 464957892243},
 %{age: 42, beacon_int: 100, bssid: "1c:7e:e5:32:d1:f8", capabilities: 1041,
   flags: "[WPA2-PSK-CCMP][ESS]", freq: 2412, id: 0,
   ie: "000768756e6c657468010882848b960c1218240301",
   level: -43, noise: 0, qual: 0, ssid: "dlink", tsf: 580587711245}]

To attach to an access point, you need to configure a network entry in the wpa_supplicant. The wpa_supplicant can have multiple network entries configured. The following removes all network entries so that only one is configured.

iex> WpaSupplicant.set_network(pid, ssid: "MyNetworkSsid", key_mgmt: :WPA_PSK, psk: "secret")

If the access point is around, the wpa_supplicant will eventually connect to the network.

iex> WpaSupplicant.status(pid)
%{address: "84:3a:4b:11:95:23", bssid: "1c:7e:e5:32:de:32",
  group_cipher: "TKIP", id: 0, key_mgmt: "WPA2-PSK", mode: "station",
  pairwise_cipher: "CCMP", ssid: "MyNetworkSsid", wpa_state: "COMPLETED"}

Polling the wpa_supplicant for status isn't that great, so it's possible to register a GenEvent with WpaSupplicant. If you don't supply one in the call to start_link, one is automatically created and available via WpaSupplicant.event_manager/1. The following example shows how to view events at the prompt:

iex> defmodule Forwarder do
...>  use GenEvent
...>  def handle_event(event, parent) do
...>    send parent, event
...>    {:ok, parent}
...>  end
...> end
iex> WpaSupplicant.event_manager(pid) |> GenEvent.add_handler(Forwarder, self())
iex> flush
{:wpa_supplicant, #PID<0.85.0>, :"CTRL-EVENT-SCAN-STARTED"}
{:wpa_supplicant, #PID<0.85.0>, :"CTRL-EVENT-SCAN-RESULTS"}

Low level messaging

It is expected that the helper functions for interacting with the wpa_supplicant will not cover every situation. The WpaSupplicant.request/2 function allows you to send arbitrary commands. Requests are atoms that are named the same as described in the wpa_supplicant documentation (see Useful links). If a request takes a parameter, pass it as a tuple where the first element is the command. Parameters may be strings or numbers and will be properly formatted for the control interface. The response is also parsed and turned into atoms, numbers, strings, lists, or maps depending on the command. The string parsing is taken care of by this library. Here are some examples:

iex> WpaSupplicant.request(pid, :INTERFACES)

iex> WpaSupplicant.request(pid, {:GET_NETWORK, 0, :key_mgmt})

Useful links

  1. wpa_supplicant homepage
  2. wpa_supplicant control interface
  3. wpa_supplicant information on the archlinux wiki


The majority of this package is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license. The code that directly interfaces with the wpa_supplicant is copied from the wpa_supplicant package and has the following copyright and license:

 * wpa_supplicant/hostapd control interface library
 * Copyright (c) 2004-2007, Jouni Malinen <>
 * This software may be distributed under the terms of the BSD license.
 * See README for more details.