What Is An On-Path Attacker?

What Is An On-Path Attacker

For optimal protection, applications should strip directory traversal sequences from user input and do not utilize absolute file path references. Unfortunately, attackers have managed to get around these defenses on many apps.

An on-path attack acts like an unwanted eavesdropper who intercepts letters that are being delivered between different addresses, reading and altering communication between devices without being noticed by either party. Threat actors can then read or modify communication without detection from both devices involved.

What Is An On-Path Attacker?

An on-path attack is a stealthy method of interfering with data in real-time without being noticed, which allows a threat actor to intercept and modify communication between devices and websites they visit. An attacker may hijack HTTP connections and act as proxy servers in order to steal credentials and other sensitive data; they could also use stolen cookies placed by websites on users’ computers for identification and tracking purposes to pose as their victims on these websites.

Similar to a post office worker who reads private letters between two individuals and intercepts them without their knowledge, an on-path attacker can discreetly position themselves between connected devices and intercept their interactions – this allows the attacker to steal data or manipulate interactions as well as gain lateral movement within networks.

Picus Attack Path Validation goes beyond traditional vulnerability scanning by identifying new and unknown chains of attack paths to critical assets within your production environment, helping reduce your organization’s attack surface and build an end-to-end risk-based defense strategy.

What is email hijacking?

Similar to man in the middle attacks, on-path attackers discreetly intervene and alter communications between two devices – giving hackers access to sensitive data as well as possible banking credentials theft.

These attacks occur across various platforms such as email communication, public Wi-Fi networks and DNS lookups. An attacker often sits between devices and intercepts or changes communications to collect data as well as impersonate either device.

Once a hacker has gained control of a victim, they can begin spreading malicious content by hijacking existing email threads and hijacking conversations within them. This method is extremely effective since the emails seem legitimate and come from someone you trust; unfortunately threat actors use automated tools to tailor replies so closely they seem like real conversations; therefore it is critical to be wary of attachments and links sent from unfamiliar sources and only open them on devices that you trust; secure VPN services are an excellent way of protecting against these types of attacks.

Intercepting HTTP Connections

As with eavesdroppers who intercept mail on its journey to you, an attacker on a network can discreetly intercept communications and manipulate data flows without users being aware. Such attacks go beyond simple wiretapping; they can spoof data, impersonate users and steal sensitive information – they could impact anything from email to DNS lookups to public Wi-Fi networks.

An ARP poisoning attack is the easiest way to conduct an on-path attack, enabling an attacker to access devices on a local network by changing its ARP table and controlling where devices send traffic. Such attacks may gain access to passwords, credit card data or any other sensitive data stored locally.

Cypress Intercept allows developers to inspect and modify network requests before they reach a server, making testing and debugging much simpler by reducing HTTP requests made directly to it. In addition, developers can return stubbed responses that clients can manage instead of actual responses from the server.

3 Ways to Prevent an On-Path Attack

Similar to how postal workers intercept and read private correspondence between two people, an on-path attacker can read and even alter communications before reaching its intended recipient. Luckily, there are ways to prevent on-path attacks from taking place.

SSL/TLS can provide secure connections that protect against HTTP attacks by encrypting communications between web browsers and websites. Another method for protecting against on-path attacks is using web services with support for HSTS, which requires secure connections and blocks unsecured HTTP connections.

An on-path attack can also be initiated through insecure network protocols like Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) poisoning, which allows an attacker to modify ARP tables without authentication or encryption in order to redirect devices’ traffic towards them. To safeguard against this situation, implement security measures like dynamic ARP inspection, role-based access control and MAC filtering as a preventative measure.

Hackers typically execute on-path attacks by positioning themselves between devices and websites in order to intercept or alter communication, although they could also target other sources like public networks, emails and DNS lookups.

1. Prioritize Using Secured Connections

To protect against on-path attacks, the best strategy is to only connect to websites offering HTTPS security (e.g. a padlock on the left of your browser), using only secure connections like this one.

On-path attackers steal your data by intercepting communications between devices, such as between your web browser and a website you’re visiting, and can collect or alter information, similar to how suspicious post office workers may intercept letters before delivery and change them before they’re delivered to their intended destinations.

An on-path attack can also target other systems, such as email communication, DNS lookups and public Wi-Fi networks. Threat actors frequently establish malicious Wi-Fi networks at airports, hotels and other public locations where people may connect for free internet access.

An essential step in prioritizing vulnerabilities is evaluating their impact on business operations, taking into account impactful systems and data as well as any applicable compliance regulations such as HIPAA. By including this factor into the process, your vulnerability prioritization techniques will better align with your overall risk management strategy.

2. Shield Sensitive Data From Public Wi-Fi

Coffee shops, hospitals and airports that offer public Wi-Fi make it convenient for users to connect and check email, browse social media or perform other tasks; however, cybercriminals could use these networks to spy on users as well as gain access to banking credentials, account passwords or any other sensitive data stored therein.

Eavesdropping allows hackers to achieve this objective. Software allows them to snoop on Wi-Fi networks and capture content such as passwords and login details – this method of attack is known as man-in-the-middle attacks.

Public Wi-Fi also poses the threat of malware infections, including session hijacking and DNS spoofing attacks, which enable hackers to redirect your connection or gain access to sensitive data on your device.

Public WiFi networks are vulnerable to these kinds of attacks due to weak password protection and inadequate router security measures. You can reduce the risks by connecting only to Wi-Fi networks you know can be trusted with VPN technology and enabling two factor authentication (2FA) across all of your accounts so it will be harder for attackers to gain entry if they intercept traffic destined for them.

3. Use Up-to-Date Antivirus Against Malware

Few people will use a computer or smartphone without some form of antivirus or anti-malware software installed and regularly updated in order to identify and combat any new forms of malware. It is therefore vitally important that this type of protection remains current so as to remain effective against threats such as ransomware.

Malware (viruses and malicious software) can be found everywhere – be it an attachment in an unsolicited email, downloaded via USB flash drive or advertised on dubious websites. Clicking an infected link could cause the malware to download onto your device or spread across networks if clicked upon by another.

Malware acts as a “man-in-the-middle,” intercepting and altering data passing between two other devices to modify or intercept communications between them. For instance, hackers may spoof an email address, IP or media access control (MAC) address of another user to impersonate them online – using this technique they could gain unauthorised access to private conversations, emails or bank accounts. It’s vital that your anti-virus has up-to-date signatures and scans files both upon access as well as scheduled.

Creating Malicious Wi-Fi Networks

Many people depend on public Wi-Fi networks to connect at home, work and other public places – this makes it crucially important to use only secure connections when accessing such Wi-Fi connections – this enables hackers to take advantage of it by creating malicious WiFi networks designed to track online activity or infiltrate computers with malware through “Evil Twin attacks”, sometimes also called man-in-the-middle attacks.

If you log into your bank on either your phone or laptop while connecting to public Wi-Fi, an attacker could create a fake WiFi network which appears identical. Once connected, this bogus WiFi can monitor your online activity and redirect browsers to fake copies of legitimate websites.

Attackers using on-path attacks often target email communications, DNS lookups, and unencrypted HTTP connections (which don’t require encryption). To mitigate on-path attacks and ensure user protection against cookie theft and spoofing attacks, web services should implement HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). HSTS forces secure SSL/TLS connections on all connections thereby safeguarding against cookie theft, spoofing, and similar forms of attacks on-path.

An on-path attack occurs when an attacker intercepts, alters, and transmits interactively sent information between two devices in some manner – such as through session hijacking or HTTPS spoofing – thus altering it in ways it was originally meant to travel.

One way to ward off these attacks is with SSL/TLS connections between web services and users; however, these cannot guarantee complete protection.

On-Path Vs. Off-Path Attackers

An attack path provides the full context of an imposed risk, including all the questions necessary to properly evaluate it – from network exposure, vulnerable assets and any crown jewel threats that might access or impact these assets.

An on-path attacker that hijacks an HTTP connection between a browser and website can intercept data flow as it travels between them and even alter it, as well as steal users’ cookies – small pieces of information sent by their browser that stores on their computer for identification purposes. This attack is known as a man-in-the-middle attack.

WiFi Networks And On-Path Attack

An on-path attack involves redirecting locally overheard data packets from WiFi networks back into an attacker device and redirecting them back out again, thus creating the possibility to impersonate an AP and intercept plaintext traffic.

Warshipping, an advanced version of this attack, involves using inexpensive components to construct a single-board computer equipped with WiFi and 3G capabilities that is then used to access WiFi networks and broadcast messages, creating traffic congestion.

An on-path attack can do more damage than its counterpart because it goes undetected for so long, wreaking havoc with any form of communication – emails, unsecured public networks, DNS lookups etc. To effectively detect and stop such threats from being implemented it’s essential that there be total network visibility so as to detect and respond accordingly.

On-path attack vs man-in-the-middle

Man-in-the-middle attacks are a type of cyber attack in which hackers place themselves between two devices to intercept and alter their communications, with malicious intent such as stealing information or hijacking online activity. They can be used by attackers for many purposes including identity theft or even financial gain.

Cloudflare provides that hackers may use this technique to access data that would normally be encrypted, as well as impersonate web browsers or servers in order to gather user information.

Attackers typically conduct this form of cybercrime via WiFi networks, where hackers create fraudulent cloned network connections to imitate legitimate ones and track users and direct them towards fraudulent versions of real websites.

On-path attacks differ from other hacking techniques by not necessitating malware installation on an infected device; rather, these attacks can be implemented simply by altering ARP tables in an IP subnet and performing ARP poisoning attacks.

On-path attack on a wireless network

An on-path attack occurs on wireless networks when malware acts to intercept communications between two devices – think of it like having someone read your mail before passing them along!

Malware employed in an on-path attack can harvest login credentials, keystrokes and interactions between websites and users in real time, as well as use this data to impersonate their target and move funds between accounts.

Threat actors can initiate an on-path attack by creating Wi-Fi networks that resemble legitimate or popular ones, or by copying existing public ones and inviting people to join them. Once people join these fake Wi-Fis, malware could take control of the connection and then hijack online activities or send your email addresses out as part of phishing scams.

Final thoughts

On-path attacks are sophisticated cyberthreats that are difficult to identify and protect against, so network visibility is essential for detecting and mitigating them.

Path Secure provides customers with cutting-edge XDP and stateful mitigation technology deployed over 12 Tbps of global network capacity across 22 of the largest Internet hubs. In addition, we provide round-the-clock personalized support to ensure our clients’ defense against DDoS attacks is swift and effective.

The Attack Paths display provides information about each attack path and category, with clicking an attack path name providing more detailed information such as graphs of resources that could potentially reach a target – providing valuable insight into both source and impact of attacks.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.