What is Man In The Middle Attack in Cybersecurity & How to Prevent it?
An MITM attack aims to gather personal information, passwords, or banking information and persuade the victim to do a specific action, like altering login information, finishing a transaction, or starting a money transfer.
Information obtained during an attack might be used for various things, like identity theft, unauthorized fund transfers, or an unauthorized password change.
Despite the fact that MITM attackers often target individuals, they also pose a serious threat to businesses and other large organizations. One popular entry point for hackers is software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications like messaging services, file storage systems, or remote work apps.
Attackers could potentially expose any variety of assets, including client data, intellectual property (IP), or confidential information about the company and its workers by using these applications as a gateway to the larger network of the firm.
How does a Man in the Middle Attack Work?
Typically it works in two phases/stages: Interception and decryption. Let’s discuss these one at a time.
First Stage: Interception
During the interception phase, hackers can access a network by utilizing an open or insufficiently secured Wi-Fi router or by deceiving domain name system (DNS) servers. Then, attackers probe the router for openings and potential vulnerabilities. Although complex methods like IP spoofing and cache poisoning are available to cyber criminals, the most popular approach to accomplish this goal is by employing a weak password.
Once a target has been identified, the attacker frequently employs data collection tools to get access to and collect the victim’s supplied data, deliberately divert traffic, or otherwise affect the user’s web experience.
Second Stage: Decryption
The second phase of an MITM attack is decryption. Attackers can now interpret and comprehend the data that was taken. Decrypted data can be exploited for a range of criminal acts, including identity theft, shady shopping, and fraudulent financial dealings. Sometimes man-in-the-middle assaults are conducted for no apparent motive other than to disrupt corporate operations and harm victims.
Different Types of MIME Attack
A wide range of techniques are employed by cybercriminals to conduct MITM attacks. Here are different types of man in the middle attack you should know.
1. Eavesdropping Through WiFi
You may have noticed a notification that implies, “This connection is not safe,” if you’ve used a gadget in a cafe. Public WiFi is often provided “as-is,” with no guarantees on the caliber of the service.
Unencrypted Wi-Fi networks can easily be observed. On the other hand, anyone can take part, exactly as in a public conversation. You can limit access by setting your computer to “public,” which disables Network Discovery. By doing this, other network users are prevented from abusing the setup.
When an attacker creates his own “Evil Twin” wi-fi hotspot, it results in another type of Wi-Fi snooping assault. By the use of the network address and passwords, the attacker makes the link look legitimate.
2. DNS Spoofing
In this type of man in the middle attack, the website uses numerical IP addresses, one of which is 220.127.116.11, which belongs to Google.
For instance, a server is used by numerous websites to translate the address to a well-known domain name, such as google.com. The server that converts 18.104.22.168 to google.com is known as a DNS server or DNS.
An attacker has the ability to create a fake Web server. “Spoofing” occurs when a malicious server sends a specific web URL to a distinct IP address.
3. IP Spoofing
Every device that has a network connection has an IP address, as we all know. Each device in a variety of internal web networks of enterprises has a unique IP address. The attackers impersonate a real console via IP spoofing. A network perceives the system as being authorized.
It might make it easier for unauthorized users to take advantage of a network. They have to monitor the actions and maintain silence, or otherwise, a Denial of Service (DoS) attack might also be launched. IP spoofing can also be employed in a Middle-in-the-Man attack by putting a device between two others.
Devices A and B, for instance, might think they are communicating with one another, but both messages are really intercepted and sent to the attacker.
4. Email Phishing
With this kind of cybersecurity compromise, the user’s email system is a tool used by the attacker. Similarly, the intruder maintains a low profile while acquiring facts and perhaps listens to the dialogue. The Attackers may use a special scanning pattern that looks for phrases like “financial” or “hidden Democratic policies.”
Hacking emails by social engineering is a great operation. The attackers may use pertinent information from a type of stolen email address to pose as an online buddy. A user may be tricked into downloading harmful programs using phishing.
5. SSL Striping
Secure Socket Layer, or SSL. If a website’s address begins with https: instead of http:, that means SSL is the security protocol being used. With SSL Stripping, the attacker gains access to and directs data packets from a user:
The user attempts to link to a secured website. The attacker encrypts and links to the secured website within the client’s account. Often, the attacker creates a phony design to offer to the buyer. The victim believes they are logged in to a legitimate website, but they are actually on a hacker’s website. The victim’s data connection’s SSL certificate has already been “stripped” by the attacker.
How Dangerous Man of the Middle Attack is?
Through MIME attacks, attackers can gain access to sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, PII details, credit card numbers, bank account details, etc. The concerning part is that users don’t have any idea that someone is present between them and the interface they are using. And, that makes this attack more dangerous.
Another fear of this attack is that once a criminal has access to sensitive information, they can further manipulate them to gain financial benefits.
Above all, man in the middle attack can be considered dangerous because this attack is used as an entry point for long-term advanced persistent threat campaigns within a company. And, the consequences are severe that include mining company data, disrupting the production environment, or taking over the entire IT infrastructure.
Examples of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks in the Real World
The adverse effects of an MITM attack can leave any organization stunned. Here are some of the examples of such attacks that took organizations by storm.
- Equifax witnessed a data breach that exposed nearly 140 million Americans. This was the result of DNS & SSL Spoofing.
- Another example of an MITM attack is Lenevo. Attackers modified the SSL certifications so that they could view the web activity and login data when someone was browsing on Chrome or another browser.
- A malicious group named LUNAR SPIDER used man in the middle attack as the medium to steal sensitive information and conduct fraudulent wire transfers.
How Can You Detect Man In The Middle Attack?
Without taking the necessary precautions, it is more difficult to recognize an MITM assault. Theoretically, a Man-in-the-Middle attack will continue until it’s too late if you don’t carefully evaluate whether your discussions have been recorded. The two main techniques for identifying such attacks involve often checking for adequate page authorization and providing some kind of temporal authentication; however, these techniques can necessitate additional forensic investigation after the event.
Instead of attempting to discover attacks while they are underway, it is essential to handle proactive measures to stop MITM attacks whenever they occur. For the sake of maintaining a safe environment, being conscious of your surfing behavior and detecting potentially dangerous situations may be essential.
Preventive Measures of Man In The Middle Attack
The suggestions listed below can assist in defending your networks against MITM attacks:
1. WAP Encryption
By adding a robust protection mechanism to access points, valid access to the system is prevented even if the user is only a short distance away. An intruder will be able to brute force his way into a weak security system and begin targeting the MITM.
2. Use a VPN
- Build a virtual private network (VPN): An encrypted VPN greatly restricts a hacker’s ability to read or change web traffic in order to encrypt your web traffic. Have a cybersecurity incident response plan in place so that you are ready to stop data loss.
- Network Protection: Use an intrusion detection system to protect your network. To lessen a man-in-the-middle assault, network administrators should practice proper network hygiene. Examine traffic patterns to spot odd behavior.
3. Authentication Using Public Key Pairs
MITM attacks frequently involve some kind of spoofing. Public key pair authentication, such as that used by RSA, is employed at several protocol stack tiers to confirm that the entities you contact are, in fact, the entities you wish to speak with.
4. Credible Network User Accounts
It is crucial to make sure the main email login has been changed. not just the Wi-Fi login information, but also the password hashes for your router. The fake servers might be switched to the DNS servers when a hacker discovers the wireless router login information. Or, at worst, use malicious software to compromise the modem.
5. Security in Communications
Users can get secure data encryption and protection from unauthorized messages thanks to communication security.
The most effective method of preventing account hacking is to enable two-factor authentication. It suggests that in addition to your login information, you will need to provide a different form of protection. One instance is when your smartphone receives a text message from Gmail along with your login information.
6. Adopting Good Network Hygiene for all Platforms, including Mobile Apps
- Since spam emails are the most common attack vector, be on the alert for phishing emails. Before opening, take a careful look at the references.
- Just install browser add-ons from reputable sites.
- Log off inactive accounts to lessen the likelihood of exploits to refute persistent cookies.
- If you expect to have a secure link but don’t, stop what you’re doing and run a security scan.
7. Avoid Using Public WiFi
If you’re using public WiFi, set your phone such that a manual link is required.
It can be challenging to spot MITM assaults as they happen. Using all of the aforementioned security preventative measures on a regular basis is the simplest approach to staying safe.
Be aware that social engineering includes such attacks. If something about social media and email doesn’t seem right, take a moment to investigate further.
Note: While installing detection tools to guard against man-in-the-middle attacks may not be realistic for individuals, general cyber safety measures can be taken to help stop the intrusion. For certain users, we advise pursuing best practices:
- Software for malware detection and security
- Strong passwords should be created, and they should be changed frequently.
- Multi-factor authentication should be enabled.
- Stay away from using unprotected public networks or open Wi-Fi.
- Always check to see if the URL begins with https:// to guarantee that you are surfing secure websites.
Q- What is the prime cause of man in the middle attack?
MITM attack happens due to security gaps present in the system. It can also happen because of unsafe websites, email account compromise, less aware users, etc.
Q- What are the common targets of MITM attacks?
These attacks typically target WiFi networks, online banking, email communication, etc. Basically, any mode of digital communication can be vulnerable to MITM attacks.
Q- What is the consequence of an MITM attack?
The effect of an MITM attack is not good. From credentials compromise to data theft, all come under the umbrella of a successful attack.
Q- Can encryption prevent man in the middle attack?
Properly encrypted SSL/TLS can significantly reduce the risk of MITM attacks.
Q- What is the purpose of executing an MITM attack?
The reasons for delivering such attacks can vary. Such as; data theft, eavesdropping for intelligence gathering, identity theft, financial fraud, or cyber espionage.
Q- What key component(s) are required to make man in a middle attack successful?
The key to a successful MITM attack is properly executing the insertion point. Once it’s accurate they can easily create a trustworthy WiFi network or website, access an email account, or find a way to mask an IP address.