What is MITM Attack and How to Prevent from MITM Attack?

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Cyber-crimes are increasing at an alarming rate. You cannot compromise the security of your device, customers, and online business. If you neglect the security threats, then you may find yourself being a victim of these scams. If you are running an online business that requires your customer’s login information, credit card details, etc., to make purchases on your site, then you surely need to make your website safe and secure. This will protect the confidential information of your clients from cyber-threats. The hackers can intercept the exchange of information between your site and the users to steal the data for their malicious plans. These attacks are named as man-in-the-middle attacks. Here is all you need to know about these attacks and their prevention methods.

What is MITM Attack?

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack happens when an invader enters between the two communicating parties (for example a user and the webserver) without being detected. These forms of attacks are carried out to take control of the sensitive information (credit card details, login information) shared between the client and the website. Attackers then use this data mainly for stealing money from the victim’s bank account, selling the data, or to hold the parties at ransom threatening them of making their information public. Sometimes the scammers only listen to the information shared between the two parties to know the important details about their trade or organization, which can lead to leakage of valuable IP (intellectual property).

These attacks are common in a way that the invaders pretend to be a legitimate party to the communication. For instance – users think they are directly connected with the web server but in reality their information is being transferred to the attacker – and the website also has no idea that all the data is coming from the hacker instead of the actual user.

How do MITM Attacks work?

Man-in-the-middle attacks can be performed in several way. Below are few forms of man-in-the-middle attacks:

1. Wi-Fi Snooping

Wi-Fi snooping occurs when you use an open Wi-Fi network for instance, using public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, cafeterias, etc. Attackers can easily overtake these types of networks. The scammers can thus simply get access to all the devices connected to that network.

Another method of Wi-Fi snooping is when an attacker creates his own Wi-Fi network that looks like an authentic network. The users may connect to this network accidentally or automatically and fall prey to these scams.

2. Email Hijacking

Email hijacking is the most common technique employed to launch man-in-the-middle attacks. The scammers can send you a link that seems to be coming from an authenticate organization or website. Sometimes, you may receive an email saying you have won a big prize, promotion deals, etc. These kinds of emails come from hackers that contain malicious content. When you click on the email and give your sensitive information to complete the process, you become a victim of these attacks.

The scammers can also inject different malware in your device and can get all of your passwords.

3. IP Spoofing

Every device that is connected to a network has an IP address. Many organizations provide different IP addresses for every system. The hackers impersonate the IP address of an authenticated device. This allows the scammers to do malicious things on that network without being detected. They can silently record activity on that network or may launch an attack, known as DoS (Denial of Service) attack. This technique can be used in a MITM attack. The attacker sits between the user and the network to monitor their activity. Both network and the user remain unaware that a hacker is intercepting their communication.

4. DNS Spoofing

DNS (Domain Name Server) spoofing is a scamming technique in which hackers redirect the online users to a fake website by altering the DNS records, for instance, IP address. They use a tool to change the IP address of a site. When the users visit the website that looks like a real site and enters their login information, their data is attacked by the hackers. Mostly, this type of scamming tool is used to install a virus in the victim’s computer to access their data for a long time.

5. HTTPS Spoofing

In the HTTPS spoofing method, the attackers create a domain that looks likes the real website. They use foreign characters (non-ASCII) on their domain that appear similar to the characters in the real domain. The users who do not notice the dissimilarity between the two domains end up being attacked by the hackers.

6. SSL Stripping

In SSL stripping, the attacker relegates the SSL encryption offered by the site from HTTPS to HTTP and sends it to the browser. The user thinks he is connected with a secure web server and the website considers the information is coming from a real user. But in reality, a hacker sits between the two. The scammer gets the information of the user in plain text and then forwards it to the site. In this way, the attacker has succeeded in stripping out the SSL security protocol.

7. Session Hijacking

During a single connection, the series of interactions between two communicating parties (browser and the web server) is called a session. As long as you remain on that application, same session is used. The session is when you log out of that application or stay inactive for some time.

Session hijacking occurs when an attacker steals the session information from HTTP cookies, page header, body, or URL of an active session. In this way, the user’s session is stolen by the hacker who can then do anything the user has the authority to do on that site.

8. ARP Spoofing

Address resolution protocol (ARP) is commonly restricted to local area networks (LAN) that use ARP protocol. In this attack, a scammer sends fake messages over a LAN. This may result in the connection of the MAC address of the hacker to the user’s IP address. Once the consumer’s IP address has matched with the attacker’s MAC address, all the data of the user will be accessed by the hacker.

9. Man-in-the-Browser

The man-in-the-browser attack is made to haunt the sites with weak security systems. This type of attack is mainly used to steal money from consumers. These spams are carried through different software to the user’s device that looks like authentic ones. For example, Trojan horses, Java exploits, SQL injection, etc. So, when the customer enters his/her sensitive information like banking details, passwords, etc., on that site, it is recorded by the virus, which can be used to make transactions. The hackers can engage in transactions and can modify the receipts to avoid being caught.

How to keep yourself safe against the Man-in-the-middle Attack?

As cyber-threats are increasing at an alarming rate, there is a need to prevent your business/organization from these scams.

Here are the important security tips that can be used to keep your website safe from these attacks:

1. SSL Security

One of the most efficient ways to save yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks is encryption. For encryption, you can use SSL certificates on your website.

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security protocol is used to encrypt the information shared between the user and the webserver. The SSL certificates are used by almost all organizations to protect their businesses. The SSL certificates have two keys – a public key and a private key.

When a user visits a website, a public key is used to generate a session key while the private key is kept secret. The session key is used to share information between the two communicating parties.

The SSL certificates prevent the attackers from attacking a website with an SSL certificate. Before buying an SSL certificate, you should always make sure that a trusted root certification authority issues the certificate. For this, you can visit a site like Clickssl to buy an SSL certificate from one of the trusted root certification authorities, such as the ones mentioned below:

· Comodo

· Symantec

· RapidSSL

· GeoTrust

· DigiCert

2. Avoid using Public Wi-Fi Networks

You should inhibit using public Wi-Fi networks. If you are running a business, make sure that none of your employees use a public Wi-Fi network because these networks can easily be attacked by hackers or even sometimes the hackers create their own public networks to trap the people.

In situations where the use of a public network is unavoidable, have your team use a corporate VPN to encrypt the communication to prevent MITM attacks.

3. Update Software

Most of the attackers access the user’s devices or websites that have installed old software. To protect your organizations from these attacks, you should keep updating all the software. Updated systems have all the security updates to save them from the known vulnerabilities that may lead to MITM attacks.

4. Train Your Employees

Most of the man-in-the-middle attacks occur due to the irresponsibility of humans while working with systems, sites, and networks. Your employees may put you in trouble by clicking on dubious malicious links or using public Wi-Fi networks that are a trap from the hackers. The reason for this is the lack of knowledge about these threats. Your employees may not know about these scams that may put you and your business in hot waters.

For this, you need to train your employees well. You should keep them updates them with all the company’s safety policies, foreseeable security threats, and how to prevent them.

Conclusion

Man-in-the-middle attacks are dangerous for every user, business, and organization because they are difficult to detect. You may not have any clue of an invader listening and monitoring your work. Most of the MITM attacks are carried out to steal money by accessing the banking details of the users. In some cases, these attackers just sit between the two parties and monitor their conversation to know the secrets of their business. Now you can see why you need to protect yourself from Man in the Middle attack. Take guidance from tips mentioned above to prevent yourself and your organization from these attacks.

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