Man-in-the-Middle Attack

There are different types of cybersecurity like sim hijacking, SIM port outs, sim swapping attacks, spoofing, man-in-the-middle attacks, malware attack, and much more. In most cyberattacks, hackers can access and control our communication. The man-in-the-middle attack is also one such attack that allows the hacker to intercept communication between the user and the server. This article will discuss what is man-in-the-middle attack and how to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack.

“Man in the Middle Attack” is an eavesdropping cyberattack in which an attack secretly intercepts and relays messages between two communicating parties. The attackers interrupt communication and insert themselves, pretending to be a legitimate participant for both communicating parties. The man-in-the-middle makes independent connection, relays, control, and possibly change the communication between the directly communicating parties. Man-in-the-middle can capture and control sensitive information. The two persons cannot identify man-in-the-middle, and they suppose safe communication.

Types of Man-in-the-Middle Attack

There are different types of Man-in-the-middle attacks that include IP spoofing, DNS spoofing, HTTP spoofing, SSL hijacking, Email hijacking, Wi-Fi eavesdropping, Session hijacking, and Cache poisoning.

  1. Internet Protocol (IP) spoofing: In IP spoofing, the attacker changes the source IP address of a website, server, or device for masking purposes.
  2. Domain Name System (DNS) spoofing:In this type of attack, the hacker changes the domain names of the websites to redirect and reroute traffic through fake websites.
  3. HTTP spoofing:In the HTTP spoofing method, a browser session is redirected to an unsecured or HTTPwebsite.
  1. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) hijacking: In this type of cyberattack, the hacker uses a separate computer or webserver to intercept the information.
  2. Email hijacking: In this type of attack, the attack gain control of email accounts to control transactions. The hacker might send a fake bank email address to spoof the user’s email account.
  3. Wi-Fi eavesdropping: In this type of attack, fake or malicious Wi-Fi is used to route traffic through their desired server.
  4. Session hijacking: In a session hijacking attack, the man-in-the-middle steal browser cookies to steal personal data and passwords.
  5. Cache poisoning: In this type of attack, the attack poison ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) to reroute traffic to a malicious network.

How to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks

Like other cybersecurity techniques, it is important to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. It stops someone from accessing our internet connection remotely. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common cybersecurity attack that requires extraordinary measures. To prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, authentication and tamper detection methods are used. The authentication method uses different techniques to authenticate communication between two legitimate users while the temper detection method identifies a broken link or man-in-the-middle. Man-in-the-middle attacks are difficult to detect as a potential attacker might control communication without being noticed by legitimate users. The user can detect the man-in-middle attack by checking the IP address of the server, checking the DNS name of the server, and checking unusual latency and unwanted delays in communication.

How to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks is a high-rated question for users as these attacks can result in huge financial losses. The hackers intercept high-value communication to steal sensitive information like credentials and passwords. Therefore, protecting communication and avoiding man-in-the-middle attacks hold significant importance. There are different methods for preventing man-in-the-middle attacks which are briefly discussed below.

1. Use Standardized protocols for safe communication

Always used standardized protocols like SSH (Secure Socket Shell), Google’s QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connection), and TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols as they provide encryption and other data protection tools. These protocols harden Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) that requires clients and serves to exchange security and trust certificates that are verified by an independent third-party called ‘Certificate Authority (CA)’. These certificates can be used to authenticate the messages if the original key fails to authenticate due to a man-in-the-middle attack. The sessions end if the client’s ID or server’s ID is not verified or declared invalid.

2. Strong WEP/WAP Encryption on Access Points

The wireless access points must have a strong encryption mechanism to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. Weak encryption allows cyberattacks to include bruteforce into the network.

3. HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP)

HPKP or certificate pinning” also provides security for preventing man-in-the-middle attacks. It provides a list of pinned public key hashes during the first transactions. For the next transactions, the server must provide one or more keys to authenticate the transactions.

4. Public Key Pair Based Authentication

Public key pair-based authentication is another secure method to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. Public key pair-based authentication methods can be implemented at different layers of the stacks. Unlike other authentication methods, it uses two separate keys for encryption and decryption which makes it impossible for hackers to spoof the network. Most internet protocols like SSH implement this method for providing secure communication.

5. Secure Connections

A secure connection is always the first line of defense against man-in-the-middle attacks as secure connections protect communication. The users must avoid connecting to weak-security internet connections and public Wi-Fi as they are security vulnerabilities. The weak-security internet connections may not follow security standards. The hacker spoofs the devices to connect illegally and steal your information. The user should connect with secure websites and servers as fake websites or insecure websites can also help hackers to spoof your communication.

6.  Avoid Phishing Emails

The hackers use phishing emails to send malicious links that help them to control your communication. The received email will look like an original email bank from a known source however, attackers use resembling names, email addresses, and similar email structures. The user clicks on the malicious link that connects the user with the hacker’s setup and might ask for a login using banking credentials. In this way, the user can give full control and access to the man-in-the-middle.

7. Virtual Private Network (VPN) Encryption

VPNs are a smart tool for encrypting internet connections and data as hackers cannot decrypt data without the secret encryption key. VPN provides secure communication even if hackers have hacked the internet connection. VPNs also work perfectly with insecure internet connections and public Wi-Fi as encrypted data cannot be extracted easily.

8. Strong Router Login Credentials

It is important to set strong router login credentials to make it difficult for users to connect to the internet. Most people do not use the default login credentials of the routers which makes it easier for cybercriminals to hack and infect routers. If the router is hacked, the hacker can access all communication. Therefore, it is important to use strong credentials for routers to make them secure.

9. Force HTTPS

HTTPS is HTTP with encryption and security that provide secure communication using a public-private key exchange. It prevents man-in-the-middle attacks as the hacker cannot sniff. Therefore, HTTPS must be strictly used to provide secure communication between servers and users.

Conclusion

The man-in-the-middle attack is a cybersecurity threat in which a hacker intercepts the communication between two users or a user and server. The hacker relay on communication and registers himself as a legitimate person. The user may not be able to identify man-in-the-middle attacks. There are different methods to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks like using standardized protocols, strong WEP/WAP Encryption on Access Points, secure connections, VPN encryption, using strong router login credentials, and HTTPS.

References

BYOS. (n.d.). How to Prevent a Man-in-the-Middle Attack. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from BYOS: https://www.byos.io/blog/how-to-prevent-man-in-the-middle-attack

Rapid 7. (n.d.). Man in the Middle (MITM) Attacks. Retrieved July 22, 2022, from Rapid 7: https://www.rapid7.com/fundamentals/man-in-the-middle-attacks/

Swinhoe, D. (2022, March 25). Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack definition and examples. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from CSO Online: https://www.csoonline.com/article/3340117/man-in-the-middle-attack-definition-and-examples.html

VeraCode. (n.d.). Man in the Middle (MITM) Attack. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from Vera Code: https://www.veracode.com/security/man-middle-attack

Yasar, K., & Cobb, M. (2022, April 28). Man-in-the-middle attack (MitM). Retrieved July 23, 2022, from Tech Target: https://www.techtarget.com/iotagenda/definition/man-in-the-middle-attack-MitM