Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks occur when an attacker positions themselves between you and your application to eavesdrop or alter communication, potentially leading to theft of credentials, unauthorised fund transfers or even changing passwords.
Attackers may use Man in the Middle attacks to gain access to your personal data and alter your online activity, without your knowledge or consent. To safeguard against such hidden dangers, endpoint security solutions that recognize malicious behaviors and warn users about potential risks should be deployed as quickly as possible.
MITM attacks typically target unprotected networks such as public Wi-Fi available at various establishments. Criminals use these networks to spy on communication, collect intelligence, and pose as their victims without them knowing it has happened.
Criminals frequently target businesses for man-in-the-middle attacks by offering free Wi-Fi networks posing as local. This enables them to monitor all online data exchanges.
What is Man in the Middle MITM Attack?
Man-in-the-middle attacks are cyber security techniques that enable an attacker to intercept and alter online communications between two parties without their knowledge or consent, thus giving cyber criminals an advantage in identity theft or illicit fund transfers. Cyber criminals also exploit this type of attack type for theft of sensitive data such as credit card numbers, login credentials and bank account details for use in further crimes such as identity theft or illicit fund transfers.
MITM attacks typically target public Wi-Fi networks; however, any device connected to the Internet could potentially become vulnerable. As such, employees should take extra precaution when connecting their personal devices at work to public Wi-Fi; it is wise to retrain device settings so as not to automatically connect to the strongest signal.
To protect against such attacks, VPNs offer an effective solution by encrypting web traffic and making it nearly impossible for an attacker to view or modify it. In addition, strong authentication methods — multi-factor authentication among them — should be employed along with least privilege access management policies to implement least privilege access management policies and mitigate attacks.
How do MitM attacks work?
With remote work and IoT devices becoming more prevalent, attackers have more chances to launch MITM attacks against businesses and individuals. By adhering to proper security practices, however, businesses can protect themselves from these covert threats and keep themselves protected against MITM threats.
Attackers intercept your online activities before they reach their intended destinations, such as an unencrypted Wi-Fi network. Once they gain access to your connection, attackers can steal sensitive information like login credentials and account details from you – as well as alter or spoof communications between you and services such as banks that you try to use (such as trying to gain passwords or change instructions for funds transfer).
MITM attacks can be carried out using various digital tools, with rogue routers or malicious software on your computer being the most likely perpetrators. MITM attacks are especially dangerous because they often go undetected for days or even weeks allowing attackers plenty of time to gain access to your information and execute their malicious plans. To safeguard against MITM attacks effectively, endpoint security and network traffic analysis tools that detect suspicious behavior can detect the presence of an MITM attack.
Types of man-in-the-middle attacks
Man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM, MitM, or MiM attacks) occur when an attacker intercepts an ongoing transfer between two authorized parties to either spy on them or impersonate one of them for covert gain. Such covert actions could involve anything from downgrading HTTPS connections to insecure HTTP, altering DNS/IP addresses or installing malware on devices to steal browsing activity and login data.
Cybercriminals tend to target businesses and individuals for the information they can acquire and sell, often through lucrative financial transactions or breaching passwords or compromising exclusive online data. Stolen data may then be used for identity theft, unauthorised financial transfers and other types of fraud.
MITM attacks may not be new, but with an increasing reliance on IoT devices and remote work providing attackers more opportunities for breaches in security, it’s more important than ever that we prevent and detect such threats. Watch out for signs that your connections have been compromised such as unexpected disconnections, traffic patterns that suggest there might be another listener present and unusual traffic spikes which suggest there could be another listener on your network.
1. Internet Protocol spoofing
Internet Protocol Spoofing allows attackers to intercept traffic between two devices and modify it without either knowing. Data travels over the internet in packets containing information about where it should go; once it arrives at its destination machine, however, the network doesn’t check them to see that everything matches up properly – this allows attackers to disguise themselves by listing their IP address as part of the header in order to deceive targets into connecting through them.
Once an attacker intercepts sensitive traffic, they can gain access to a victim’s session token and gain full control of their account – giving them full access to monitor activity or steal information from them.
Hackers can also spoof HTTPS connections to intercept SSL-based requests and force hosts to send them without encryption, giving hackers access to any messages exchanged over that connection – including passwords, credit card numbers, or any other personal information exchanged during it – which they can later read and steal from. This type of attack has become particularly perilous with the surge in remote work environments and Internet of Things devices.
2. Domain Name System spoofing
DNS spoofing allows cyber criminals to intercept and alter online communications between two parties. Attackers use websites designed to appear like legitimate, trusted websites in order to convince users into providing their credentials; after which time, attackers gain access to personal information from victims.
Criminals commonly target public Wi-Fi networks due to their less secure nature than private ones, especially ones with misconfigured or outdated routers. Therefore, it’s essential that when in public areas it is always important to check your network connection and disable the auto-connect feature on mobile devices if applicable.
When opening a website, your computer uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to convert its address into its IP address. However, an attacker who spoofs DNS can send back false responses that redirect your device away from a secure site and lead you towards unsecure ones with potentially harmful consequences – this includes stolen data being taken off you device or malware infections occurring. That is why it is wise to utilize VPNs whenever possible since these encrypt data and protect you against man-in-the-middle attacks.
3. Secure Sockets Layer hijacking
As its name implies, MITM attacks leverage SSL and HTTPS connections by intercepting traffic between a victim’s browser and their destination website. Cyber criminals can then gain access to sensitive information or hijack user accounts before manipulating transactions through MITM attacks – something businesses with interactive websites or software applications storing customer data should take note of as these types of attacks could pose considerable threats and professional harm.
Unexpected disconnections, repeated login attempts or an unusually “slow” connection could be telltale signs of an active man-in-the-middle attack. A browser window with an unexpected URL spoofed by an attacker may also signal that they’re gathering your information under cover of being trustworthy sources.
Successful MITM attacks can have immediate and long-term repercussions. Cybercriminals may compromise information to steal credentials or financial data; over time they could spoof or alter communications between two parties to disrupt services like online banking or sabotage a company’s production environment. Thankfully, strict security protocols and best practices can mitigate such attacks; take a 14-day free trial of StrongDM to see how our infrastructure access platform combines authentication, authorization, networking with observability and visibility to block MITM attacks.
4. HTTP spoofing
Man-in-the-middle attacks allow attackers to intercept and manipulate data that they should not have access to, including login credentials, malware downloads or application access. SSL stripping is one such attack which downgrades an HTTPS connection into an insecure HTTP one; another technique known as DNS spoofing allows an attacker to redirect traffic towards malicious websites that appear legitimate.
Cybercriminals use this tactic to access passwords and credit card data. They can also change ongoing communications such as moving money out of your bank account into their own, or altering instructions in banking apps.
For optimal protection from MITM attacks, avoid storing sensitive information online and clear browser cookies frequently. It is also wise to install all available software updates and patches as this reduces malware infections and other attacks on systems. A VPN service provides another layer of protection by creating an encrypted private network across public ones and protecting data in transit.
5. Email hijacking
By exploiting basic scripting languages, attackers can alter email messages to change the sender address or inject malicious content, enabling them to listen in on conversations between Alice and Bob by changing sender addresses or injecting malicious links – effectively listening in on conversations between Alice and Bob while also collecting private data or pretending to be one of them.
Man-in-the-middle attacks are one of the primary means by which hackers gain access to passwords and sensitive information, including credit card numbers or login credentials for online accounts, company files and servers, etc. With remote work becoming more prevalent as mobile devices and IoT are utilized more heavily within enterprises of all sizes – according to Business News Daily the average small business loses $55,000 due to cyber attacks!
Unmasking a man-in-the-middle attack isn’t always straightforward, but one telltale sign is when your password no longer works and you can no longer log into your account. If this occurs, immediately change your password before searching for signs of intrusion like unauthorised network devices or malware on your computer.
6. Session hijacking
Session hijacking attacks utilize valid computer sessions–or session keys–to gain entry to services provided by web applications. Once cybercriminals obtain valid sessions, they have access to virtually everything within that application, including managing monetary exchanges and accessing sensitive data stored in accounts; potentially even unauthorizing unapproved access through single sign-on (SSO).
An attacker can utilize this type of MITM attack by seizing legitimate session tokens and then using them to impersonate users and access data or services on target servers. Attackers may capture such a session token through sniffing out existing connections and anticipating what it might look like or by tricking people into signing in via fake URLs or login structures.
Example: Justin receives an email containing a link that contains his favorite online retailer’s session key, which allows an attacker to log into Justin’s account using saved credit card data and go on a shopping spree as him using saved credentials from other retailers. Meanwhile, they observe communication patterns between Justin and their target website so as to gain further sessions later.
7. Wi-Fi eavesdropping
Cybercriminals use Wi-Fi eavesdropping (also known as evil twin attacks) to intercept data packets sent over unencrypted connections and read passwords, credit card numbers and personal messages that pass over unencrypted channels. Experts advise avoiding public Wi-Fi networks for tasks requiring login authentication or personal data transmission.
Hackers create fake wireless networks or hotspots that appear authentic, deceiving users into connecting. Once users do connect to these rogue networks, hackers are then able to monitor their online activity or collect login credentials and payment card data from them.
Attackers may gain access to sensitive details by monitoring a network’s traffic using hardware or software designed to capture and analyze packets – known as packet sniffing, this technique is frequently employed by attackers in man-in-the-middle attacks.
An attack by man-in-the-middle can have serious repercussions for businesses, particularly if their website or software-as-a-service (SaaS) application stores customer data. Even undetected security breaches can still result in operational slowdowns and loss of customer trust.
8. SSL Hijacking
SSL stripping aims to break the encryption between a user and the website they’re visiting, using ARP spoofing or IP address spoofing (or even DNS cache poisoning) attacks to intercept a connection between victim and browser using ARP or IP spoofing, before redirecting that connection back into their control via ARP spoofing or IP spoofing, relaying all information directly back and forth unencrypted.
Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks can be extremely devastating when successful; attackers use what information they gathered by passive eavesdropping to either gain sensitive data from victims, or impersonate them on websites and chat apps – with financial institutions being particularly susceptible as cyber criminals monitor transactions and correspondence closely.
“SSL hijacking,” another type of Man in the Middle attack, allows attackers to intercept encrypted communications between users and an online bank such as theirs and alter those messages to gain access to banking details or redirect money transfers into their own accounts.
Who is at Risk of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks?
Cybercriminals can conduct man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks against any individual or organization that interacts with an online service or WiFi network, either directly or through intermediary services such as WiFi networks. An MITM attacker spies on these interactions, impersonates services to steal credentials, and then redirects data for malicious use. MITM attacks have been used by hackers to steal financial data or logins, purchase goods illegally, breach company perimeters and breach firewalls – they may even combine with phishing or Denial of Service (DoS) attacks to take down networks and websites altogether.
Attackers utilize sniffing software, rogue access points or networking devices, malware, and other vulnerabilities to intercept insecure web traffic. Furthermore, they exploit any flaws in websites, SSLs or DNSs which allow attackers to intercept communication between a user and an online service, using intercepted data for various purposes such as retrieving sensitive information, mining company data or disrupting production environments. With proper authentication tools in place such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and secure remote access enabled systems installed a business can prevent and detect MITM attacks
MITM attack progression
If you shop frequently online for goods and services, saving passwords and credit card data in your browser may save time but exposes you to hacking threats. It is wiser not to store such sensitive data anywhere online and instead regularly clear out cookies (instructions: Chrome; Firefox) which will make it much harder for hackers to intercept this sensitive data.
MITM attacks are frequently employed to obtain login credentials, account data, credit card numbers and other personal information from Internet users. An attacker who can gain your trust can trick you into connecting to a rogue Wi-Fi network or visiting an untrustworthy website; then they can steal session cookies and authentication data live and use it fraudulently.
Similar attacks known as ARP poisoning/spoofing can also occur if someone sends you an encrypted message using their private key, and an attacker intercepts, deciphers and alters it before re-encrypting for delivery to Bob (breaking confidentiality). Such activities can either be executed using malware or directly by humans.
As its name implies, a man-in-the-middle attack involves intercepting communications. Attackers can utilize various digital tools – from public Wi-Fi networks and devices with weak security protocols to social engineering attacks – in order to intercept communications and form their strategy of attack.
Attackers may set up free malicious Wi-Fi hotspots with names matching their locations, giving them full visibility into all online data exchanged by devices that connect. They could also hack into routers using default login credentials or outdated firmware with known vulnerabilities; once access has been gained to a device’s Internet connection, attackers could intercept communication between that device and its intended web server and intercept its communications directly.
Users and passwords, and alter the content of any transmitted messages. Unusual disconnections from services as well as repeated login attempts could indicate a MITM attack; similar telltale signs include DNS results that mask true IP addresses for websites.
Man-in-the-middle attacks occur when cybercriminals place themselves between you and an online application or website, which allows them to listen in, modify conversations or impersonate either party – and steal valuable information such as login credentials, account details or credit card numbers from one party to gain control. They frequently target SaaS business apps, financial services sites or any site requiring authentication requiring login as they can use this data for criminal operations of their own.
If you visit a bank website and receive an SSL warning that it’s invalid, this could be evidence that someone inserted an unsecured connection as part of a man-in-the-middle attack by criminals attempting to redirect you to a fake version of it, with which they could then steal login data and passwords.
Man-in-the-middle attackers can intercept and manipulate encrypted emails sent over email or instant messaging applications, using public key encryption techniques to intercept a colleague’s public key and use their private key re-encrypt it in an attempt to fool you into thinking you were communicating directly with them. Once again, you’ll end up receiving this faked reply thinking it came from them – making for another unfortunate circumstance!
Man in the middle attack prevention
Man-in-the-Middle attacks are a popular tactic among cybercriminals. This type of attack gives attackers access to sensitive data for theft or financial gain or corporate espionage purposes.
To ward off MITM attacks, your business should implement cybersecurity best practices such as security awareness training, encryption and regular vulnerability scans. As part of these preventive measures, consider changing your router’s default login credentials and regularly upgrading its firmware so as to seal any security holes.
Strong password policies are an excellent way to prevent hackers from guessing your username and password. Furthermore, unexpected or repeated disconnections should be watched for as these could be indicators that an attacker has compromised your connection and is trying to force you out so they can capture your login credentials as you reconnect – if this occurs contact your provider immediately to discuss next steps.