Cyber-crimes have been haunting us, and since then, they have continued to increase at an alarming rate. MITM attacks are a kind of cyber-attacks that are mostly used to steal sensitive information or money from the target using the information siphoned off the communication channel. There is no way to avoid these attacks other than being proactive in using an up-to-date security mechanism with appropriate prevention cover. Follow this complete guide to understanding everything you need to know about MITM attacks, their different techniques, and how to prevent them.
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What is a MITM Attack?
A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack refers to a cyber-crime in which a hacker places himself/herself between two communication parties (for instance, a browser and the webserver). These attacks are among the most dangerous attacks because none of the communicating groups know that an attacker intercepts their information. The primary motivation for these attacks is to get the customer’s confidential information (banking details, passwords, user id). The scammers use this data to perform malicious activities such as stealing cash, sell the records, or demand ransom to return the victim’s information. This may also lead to your rivals getting their hands on the valuable data associated with your company’s intellectual property and trade secrets.
(Top 9) Best MITM Techniques & their Prevention Methods
There are several ways to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks. Some of the prevalent methods are discussed here:
1. Session Hijacking
A session is established when you log in to an application (for example, Facebook). This session is used to perform all other processes/tasks on that app. When you stay inactive for a long time or log out, the session is removed. Session hijacking is the form of MITM attack in which the hacker intercepts the session info from HTTP cookies, page header, body, or URL of an active session. If the hacker successfully steals the session information, he/she can perform any activity the user has the privilege to do on that application/website.
2. SSL Stripping
In this type of cyber-attack, the hacker degrades the website’s security from HTTPS to HTTP and forwards it to the user who has requested a secure connection. The client assumes that he has established a secure connection with the website. On the other hand, the webserver thinks that the data is coming from the actual user. However, in reality, the hacker intercepts the exchange of data between the user and the webserver. The attacker receives the user’s data over an HTTP connection in plain text and sends it to the website over an HTTPS connection. Thus, the scammer has successfully stripped out the SSL safety protocol.
3. Email Hijacking
Email hijacking is another form of man-in-the-middle attacks that are commonly being used by hackers nowadays. You may receive an email that looks like it originated from a legitimate source, and most often, such mails assure you of free valuable items, lottery prizes, etc. When you click on these types of links and enter your login credentials on those sites, you become victims of these spams.
4. DNS Spoofing
In this scamming technique, the hacker uses some tools to change the IP address of a real website to a fake one. When the users visit that site, they land on a phony site. The customers enter their sensitive data there, and the cybercriminals get their hands on the exchanged information. The method of DNS spoofing is primarily used to plant malware on the personal computer of the user to control their information over time without being detected.
5. Wi-Fi Snooping
When you go out in public places like cafeterias, coffee shops, etc., and use public Wi-Fi there, you may become a target of man-in-the-middle attacks. These types of Wi-Fi networks usually have weak security, and the attackers can take control over them very quickly. In this way, the scammers can access all the devices connected to that Wi-Fi network. Sometimes, the ill-meaning miscreants create their Wi-Fi network similar to an authentic (Coffee shop or cafeteria) Wi-Fi network. The users may accidentally or automatically connect to that network and become a victim of Wi-Fi snooping attacks.
Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are increasing at an astonishing rate. Therefore, there is a need to secure your website and your customers from such dangerous incidents.
Here are a few valuable security techniques that you can use to protect yourself from MITM attacks:
1. SSL Certificates
A secure socket layer (SSL) or Transport Layers Security (TLS) is a security protocol that is used to protect the exchange of information between two engaging parties (for instance, a web server and a user). The SSL certificates safeguard sensitive information through encryption. This is one of the most trusted and easy to adopt mechanisms to prevent MITM attacks. Hence, most online businesses install SSL certificates on their websites to stay safe from the reach of cyber-criminals. Trusted third parties, known as certificate authorities (CAs), issue the SSL certificates.
If you are managing an organization having online websites for trading, you should install an SSL certificate. Before purchasing an SSL certificate, you should ensure that a trusted root certificate authority has issued the certificate. To buy an SSL certificate from a trusted root certificate authority, you must go to a reputable SSL provider like GlobalSign, DigiCert, SSL2BUY.
2. Software Updates
Old software lacks the new security updates to tackle newer cyber-crimes, and the hackers quickly overtake the computing resources (including servers and consumer devices) with old software. Therefore, you should ensure that all the software running on your systems is kept updated to secure your company from such attacks. An up-to-date system has all the security features installed to protect it from the known vulnerabilities that may open you to MITM attacks.
3. Do Not Use Public Wi-Fi Networks
If you are running an organization, you should inhibit using public Wi-Fi networks to all your employees. You and your workers should only use the network with robust security systems and not the public Wi-Fi networks that hackers can easily access. Using unsecured Wi-Fi is risky and may land you into a severe problem.
If there is no way to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, your team should use a VPN to encrypt the communication to stay safe from MITM attacks.
4. Employee Training
The leading cause of most of the MITM attacks is the lack of knowledge about these threats. By tapping on suspicious links or using public Wi-Fi networks controlled by the attackers, your employee can put you in danger. You can protect your organization from these attacks by keeping your staff updated with new security policies, potential threats to the firm, and keeping them abreast of the prevention methods.
Man-in-the-middle attacks cannot be detected easily. That’s why they are considered one of the most dangerous cyber-attacks. The main reason for these attacks to be launched is to steal money from the victim’s bank account or sometimes to monitor the information exchange between two groups to get crucial data about the transactions being conducted. Now, you know what MITM attacks are, how they are perpetuated, and how to protect yourself from them. Follow the above guidelines to keep yourself and your organization safe from these nasty raids.