Normally when I run wpa_supplicant I'll get some output like this:

Successfully initialized wpa_supplicant
ioctl[SIOCSIWAP]: Operation not permitted
ioctl[SIOCSIWENCODEEXT]: Invalid argument
ioctl[SIOCSIWENCODEEXT]: Invalid argument
wlan3: Trying to associate with 9c:3d:cf:fb:95:96 (SSID='Bell420' freq=2462 MHz)
wlan3: Association request to the driver failed
wlan3: Associated with 9c:3d:cf:fb:95:96
wlan3: Authentication with 9c:3d:cf:fb:95:96 timed out.
ioctl[SIOCSIWAP]: Operation not permitted
wlan3: CTRL-EVENT-DISCONNECTED bssid=9c:3d:cf:fb:95:96 reason=3 locally_generated=1
wlan3: WPA: 4-Way Handshake failed - pre-shared key may be incorrect

The problem is it just keeps trying over and over.

Is there a way I can tell wpa_supplicant to quit as soon as it gets an obvious error like wrong key?

I'm on an older embedded device with wpa_supplicant v2.1.

I wrote a workaround for monitoring wpa_supplicant for incorrect keys. Using grep on wpa_supplicant (with stdbuf based on Stéphane Chazelas' comment here):

  # Create conf file with ssid and password
  wpa_passphrase "$ssid" "$password" > /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

  # If wifi key is wrong kill subshell
  (sudo stdbuf -o0 wpa_supplicant -Dwext -iwlan1 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf 2>&1 \
    | grep -m 1 "pre-shared key may be incorrect" \
    && kill -s PIPE "$subshell") &

Note: the above block is inside a subshell in a script.

It seemed to work initially but over time I found sometimes it would cause the whole script to fail when the password was fine. Other times it would work as expected.

There must be a better way to do this.

Edit: Maybe I should be using wpa_cli here instead?

  • can you add the content of wpa_supplicant.conf?
    – GAD3R
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 23:19
  • @GAD3R notice the line wpa_passphrase "$ssid" "$password" > /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf if you really want to know my wifi $ssid and $password it is Bell420 and philiprichardkirkbride. Set those and run wpa_passphrase and you'll have my conf :-) Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 23:44
  • 1
    This looks a bit like wpa_supplicant and the driver don't match, and the first tries to use operations the second doesn't support. The "association request to driver failed" followed by a "associated" message certainly looks wrong. Are you sure it's an incorrect key? What happens if you disable_network the offending network with wpa_cli? (BTW, do wpa_cli help, the man-page doesn't contain all commands).
    – dirkt
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 15:16
  • 1
    @dirkt I'm sure because I run the same code with a correct password and it works. My current solution for case user enters wrong password with the above behavior is to use timeout on the whole process. If I could more quickly detect a wrong password I could lower the wrong password scenario from 85 seconds to 45 seconds. So yes I know the password is wrong because I'm purposely testing that scenario, correct password works fine. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 15:21
  • Does the CTRL-EVENT-DISCONNECTED event show up in wpa_cli? Can you try to add a wrapper to /sbin/wpa_action (or modify it directly) and in this way catch the event/
    – dirkt
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


# SSID and password

# Create wpa_supplicant.conf
wpa_passphrase "$ssid" "$password" > /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

# Run wpa_supplicant in the background
wpa_supplicant -Dwext -iwlan1 -c/etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf > /tmp/wpa_supplicant.log 2>&1 &

# Monitor log file for error messages
tail -f /tmp/wpa_supplicant.log | while read -r line; do
    if [[ $line == *"pre-shared key may be incorrect"* ]]; then
        echo "Incorrect key detected. Exiting..."
        kill $!

wpa_supplicant is run in the background, and its output is redirected to a log file. The tail command continuously reads the log file and checks for the specified error message. If the error message is found, it prints a message and terminates the script by killing the wpa_supplicant process.

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