What is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack? Detection and Prevention Tips
A man in the middle attack (MITM attack) is executed when a hacker secretly intercepts an online communication. The attacker can silently eavesdrop on the conversation, steal information, or alter the content of the messages. MITM attacks are often conducted to gather credentials and confidential information from the target. Because of the potential destruction that the man-in-the-middle attack can cause, organizations must safeguard their network against them.
In the last decade, several organizations have been hit by the attack. For instance, in 2013, the Nokia Express browser was found to be decrypted HTTPS traffic on Nokia’s proxy servers. This gave them access to their customers’ encrypted browser traffic. Similarly, a security breach at DigiNotar in 2011 led to a fraudulent issue of certificates that were utilized to perform MITM attacks.
What constitutes a man in the middle attack?
A man in the middle attack can come in two formats – the one where the attackers are in physical proximity to the target, and the other where they use the malware.
Secondly, it is executed in two phases – the first phase is interception, and the second phase is decryption.
- In the first phase, the hacker enters a vulnerable Wi-fi network, such as an unsecured public Wi-fi, and intercepts the transmitted information by inserting his tools between the user’s system and the internet. He then gains access to the user’s confidential information like banking passwords and login credentials.
- This is followed by decrypting the victim’s encrypted data and using it for malicious purposes.
There are 7 types of MITM attacks –
- SSL Spoofing – In this attack, hackers hijack a valid computer session and downgrade it to an unencrypted format. They intercept the user’s connection request and create an independent connection through the HTTPS protocol. Hackers pose as the server and send the server’s response in an unencrypted format to the user. The user, thinking it is coming from a trusted server, continues to feed information to the attacker.
- Wi-Fi Eavesdropping – Any hacker can easily get into an unsecured Wi-fi network and snoop around your private information. Sometimes, hackers also create a replica of your Wi-fi network, called an ‘evil twin’. The unsuspecting user connects to the evil twin network, allowing the hackers to intercept his communication.
- IP Spoofing – IP Spoofing involves creating IP packets with a modified source address, hiding the sender’s identity. This causes the user to unwittingly send information to the wrong address.
- Stealing Browser Cookies – Cookies are small files containing information about the websites you visit. Hackers can steal these cookies, install them on their system with hashed passwords and gain access to your accounts.
- DNS Spoofing – Also known as DNS Cache Poisoning, allows the hacker to divert user information to his system. The hacker introduces corrupt DNS (Domain Name System) data into the DNS resolver’s cache. This results in the name server returning an incorrect IP address.
- Email Hijacking – In this attack, a hacker enters a user’s email account and accesses his conversations. The hacker can also masquerade as someone else, such as a bank, to manipulate other users.
- HTTPS Spoofing – HTTPS in the URL of a website is a sign that it can be trusted. However, hackers have found a way to manipulate the domain name by using similar-looking characters to fool the browser into believing that it is redirecting to a safe website.
How to Detect A Man in The Middle Attack?
To detect a MITM attack, you should pay attention to the URL in your address bar. Usually, the lack of ‘S’ in HTTPS or any other strange-looking address is a red flag. You should also look for frequent disconnection or connections to unfamiliar locations.
Similarly, be careful while connecting to a public Wi-fi network and choose your network to ‘public’ to disable network discovery. Of course, the best course of action is to take necessary steps towards MITM attack prevention.
How to Ensure MITM Attack Prevention?
- To ensure man-in-the-middle attack prevention, you must follow basic cybersecurity practices.
- For starters, you should be careful while login into a public Wi-fi network. You must use only secure Wi-fi routers such as those using WPA2 security.
- Always use end-to-end encryption for any online communication such as chats, emails, or video calls.
- Creating a strong password is a basic but extremely crucial step towards cyberattack prevention. You can protect your passwords by using a password manager and ensure never to reuse your passwords across different accounts.
- Also, you must connect only to HTTPS connections while browsing the internet. Employ DNS over HTTPS to encrypt your DNS request. Use VPN to encrypt the traffic between the users and the server.
- Finally, you can also use a web application firewall to keep your network safe from man-in-the-middle attacks.
Keep Your Network Security Foolproof
Rely on trusted security experts like Indusface for an effective man-in-the-middle attack solution. Indusface’s Web Application Firewall works as a proxy server in the middle, keeping you safe from MITM attacks.