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Cyber Security

Exploring the Techniques of Man in the Middle Attack

Avatar Andrea Abbondanza , 09 Gen, 2024

Have you ever wondered how hackers can intercept and manipulate your online communications, tricking you into revealing your sensitive information? Ahead, we will decode the deception behind one of the most common and dangerous cyberattacks: the Man-in-the-Middle attack.

Read on to learn more about what a Man in the Middle attack is, how it works, case examples, and how to prevent it from happening. Join us as we dive deep into the dark world of man-in-the-middle attacks.

What is a Man in the Middle Attack?

A malware attack
A malware attack

A MITM attack, short for Man-in-the-Middle attack, is an eavesdropping cyberattack where a malicious attacker intercepts and alters the communication between two parties talking to each other—hence in the “middle”.

Various possibilities can come out of this data breach attack: conversation eavesdropping, message modification, or other party impersonation. This allows the attacker to steal confidential data, modify transactions, propagate malware, and ruin communication.

Commonly, users can encounter a Man in the Middle attack during these scenarios:

  • Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network
  • Visiting a compromised website
  • Using an insecure protocol

MITM Attack Progression

Data breach
Data breach

Interception

Interception is the initial step of a Man in the Middle attack. It happens when an attacker places oneself between the two communicating parties—often a user and a server—to obtain access to the data being sent, like passwords or other personal information.

The simplest Man in the Middle attack is when an attacker offers public, fake Wi-Fi hotspots with no password and a name based on where they are—this lures users with minimal precautions. A study revealed that 40% of the respondents had their personal information compromised while connecting to public Wi-Fi.

The attacker can also track the participants’ activities and behavior, such as the websites they visit, the communications they send, and the transactions they conduct.

The attacker can accomplish this through various tactics, including:

  • ARP spoofing
  • DNS spoofing
  • SSL stripping
  • IP spoofing

Decryption

Decryption is the second step of a Man in the Middle attack, where the attacker tries to decode the encrypted data that they intercepted without alerting the app or the user.

The attacker can use various techniques to break the encryption, such as:

  • HTTPS spoofing
  • SSL BEAST
  • SSL hijacking
  • SSL stripping

By decrypting the data, the attacker can access and do something to the actual information that the parties are exchanging.

Examples of MITM Attacks

A device malware attack
A device malware attack

Scenario 1: Intercepting Data

In this scenario, an attacker sets up a rogue access point attack and tricks users into connecting to their malicious Wi-Fi hotspot. After a user finally logs in to the hotspot and accesses a fake site, the attacker performs an MITM attack and captures the encrypted user information that they have retrieved during the hotspot usage.

Finally, the attacker uses the gathered data on the real site to access the target user’s personal information.

Scenario 2: Gaining Access to Funds

In this scenario, the attacker continues their attack by setting up a fake chat service from an infamous bank. When previously intercepted user data has been gained, the attacker will use it during their fake chat service to act as if they are a real bank representative.

During the chat, the attacker consecutively initiates a conversation on the authentic bank website, impersonating the victim and passing along the required data to enter the victim’s account.

How to Prevent Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Data protection
Data protection

There are several ways to prevent an MITM attack. Take a look at these preventions!

Secure Connections

This is the most vital prevention: make sure you only access a website with “HTTPS” in the URL bar and avoid those with only “HTTP”. Most browsers usually indicate a secure website by displaying a padlock icon near the URL.

On top of that, try your best to avoid connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi connections to stay away from attackers’ interception.

Avoid Phishing Emails

Think twice before opening a sketchy email from unverified or unknown sources, especially if they order you to click a link to enter login credentials or update passwords. Most of the time, these phishing emails will lead you to a fake website or automatically download malicious software on your device.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) Encryption

A VPN encryption is a must-use method of securing your online communication when connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots. This method works by constructing a private, encrypted tunnel between a user device and a VPN server. The data will only be decrypted after it reaches the VPN server. This way, an attacker will only see gibberish and won’t be able to access or modify your information.

This method also hides your IP address and location, making it harder for attackers to track or target you.

Endpoint security

Attackers utilize malware to perform an MITM attack, making it crucial to have antimalware and internet security products. These endpoint securities are vital to prevent an MITM attack.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common targets of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks?

MITM attacks commonly target customers of banking, online retail, and SaaS platforms, as well as organizations that use unsecured or public networks or weak encryption protocols.

Can Man-in-the-Middle attacks be executed without any specialized tools or software?

Yes, Man-in-the-Middle attacks can be executed without any specialized tools or software by exploiting weak or unsecured network protocols, such as Wi-Fi or SSL.

How can one protect themselves from being a victim of Man-in-the-Middle attacks on public Wi-Fi networks?

Individuals can protect themselves from Man-in-the-Middle attacks on public Wi-Fi networks by using VPN encryption, avoiding untrustworthy websites, and enabling multifactor authentication.

Conclusion

It’s alarming how hackers sneak into online conversations, playing tricks to expose private information through MITM attacks. From intercepting to decoding, these cyber threats pose a real danger, as seen in scenarios involving rogue Wi-Fi hotspots and elaborate financial frauds.

Prioritizing secure connections and utilizing the above preventions build a robust defense. With awareness and proactive steps, we can keep the sneaky MITM threats at bay.

Stay alert and take action to protect your data from MITM attacks. If you need further help, contact Fluxgate today!