The Internet has transformed our lives in ways we never could have imagined. It’s given us access to information and resources that were once out of reach, and it allows us to connect with people on the other side of the world in real time.
For businesses too, the Internet has become a key tool for staying competitive and gaining an edge over the competition. But while it’s easy to forget that there’s no such thing as a completely secure network, hackers and cybercriminals never sleep. They’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in your systems, so it’s important to stay ahead of them by doing everything you can to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack from happening.
To better assist you in this endeavor, we’ve put together a detailed guide that will help you understand the basics of a man-in-the-middle attack, how it works and how you can prevent it from happening.
What Is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack?
A man-in-the-middle attack is typically an attack on a computer system. In this type of attack, the attacker intercepts communications between two parties and impersonates each of them in turn. The goal is to gain access to information that would otherwise be unavailable.
Sometimes, this type of attack is performed by an individual or group who wants to eavesdrop on or tamper with the communication between two other parties. Other times, it’s done for financial gain or political reasons—for example, governments might want to eavesdrop on private communications between citizens to discover if they’re involved in illegal activities.
The attacker can perform such attacks by using technology like a cell phone jammer or bluetooth device (which can be used to intercept text messages). However, these types of attacks are typically limited in scope and don’t allow them access to everything being transmitted over the network; they must be close enough so that they can hear what’s being transmitted via radio waves or electromagnetic signals.
Types of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
Now that we have established the basics of how MITM attacks work, let’s dive into the different types of man-in-the-middle attacks. The following are some of the most common types of MITM attacks:
Sidejacking is a man-in-the-middle attack that steals your browser cookies. When you login to a website, your browser sends a session cookie to the website so it can remember you and access your account. Sidejacking steals that session cookie, letting the attacker use your account on the site as if they were you.
This type of attack is especially dangerous because it’s invisible to most users; they won’t realize that they’ve been hacked until they get an email from their bank or email provider saying “Hey, someone used your account!”
The best way to protect yourself from sidejacking is to use two-factor authentication (2FA) on all of your accounts. 2FA requires not only a password but also something else—like an OTP sent to your phone via text message—to gain access to an account. This makes it much more difficult for someone else to log into your account without permission.
2) ARP Poisoning
ARP Poisoning is a type of Man-in-the-Middle Attack that allows attackers to redirect network traffic by poisoning the ARP cache on a host. This means that all traffic is sent to the attacker’s computer instead of to the intended destination because the attacker is now acting as an intermediary between two systems.
The attacker can use this technique to eavesdrop and tamper with data being sent between two hosts connected on a LAN. In order for this attack to be successful, they must first have control over a computer that’s directly connected to both hosts (the ones they want to poison). Then, they send out a fake message claiming ownership of an IP address belonging to one of those hosts.
When the other computers receive these messages, they will update their ARP tables and start sending any future packets intended for that IP address to the attacker instead of its legitimate owner.
3) The Session Hijacker
While it’s true that most man-in-the-middle attacks are aimed at stealing information, it’s also true that the attacker may have another goal in mind.
The session hijacker is one of these other types of attackers. The session hijacker attacks your online session by trying to steal your login information or other sensitive data in your currently open browser tabs.
How do they do it? They use a special kind of malicious code that monitors your connection and waits for you to log into a website or application. As soon as you enter your username and password, the malware intercepts them, logs them into its own account, then sends those credentials on to the real site so that everything looks normal to you.
This type of attack can be even more dangerous than standard phishing scams because it takes place directly within your browser—therefore bypassing any security measures put in place by the site itself.
4) SSL Stripping Attacks
An SSL stripping attack is a type of Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack that attacks HTTPS connections by stripping out the SSL layer from the HTTP traffic and making it vulnerable to eavesdropping. This can be done in many different ways, but typically involves installing a certificate for an HTTPS site on the victim’s computer and then redirecting them to the real server that has been compromised.
This attack works because of how browsers handle certificates. When you go to https://www.example.com/, your browser checks its list of trusted certificates that it has already installed to see if the one being used belongs to https://www.example.com/. If not, then it will display an error message and refuse to load the page. But if you have already installed a certificate for example.com (or any subdomain), you would never see this error message unless someone had tampered with your computer or installed malware on it!
This happens all the time when people visit phishing sites because they are trying to get users’ login credentials or credit card information and install malware on their computers at the same time!
5) Wireless Eavesdropping
Man-in-the-middle attacks are sneaky, but they’re not always easy to pull off. That’s why some hackers go for the wireless option instead. In this type of attack, a hacker will place themselves between a victim and their wireless access point, then use a tool like an antenna to intercept the signal from the victim’s laptop or phone.
This is known as an “evil twin” attack because it tricks the victim into thinking they’re connecting to their own network when in fact they’re connecting to the hacker’s computer. This allows him/her to collect any data that passes through his/her computer without even having physical access to it.
The best way to avoid this type of attack is by using encryption when accessing public networks (like WiFi at airports), and keeping your devices updated with antivirus software so that you’re protected from malware infections like viruses or worms that could be used as tools for malicious attacks against your device(s).
5 Ways to Prevent Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
#1: Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to protect yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks because it encrypts all your internet traffic and tunnels it through a secure server in another location before connecting to the internet. This means even if someone tries to intercept your data packets on the network, they won’t be able to read them because they’re encrypted with an encryption key only known by you and your VPN provider.
#2: Update Your Devices Regularly
It’s important to update your devices regularly as this will keep them protected against new vulnerabilities discovered by hackers or software developers. This is especially important for laptops, smartphones and tablets as they’re more vulnerable to attacks than desktops because they’re constantly connected to the internet via Wi-Fi or mobile data.
#3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication is a security feature that adds an extra layer of protection when logging in to your accounts. This can be done by sending a code via text message, email or an automated phone call to the device you’re using to log in. This means even if someone has your password, they won’t be able to access your account unless they have that code too.
$4. Use Encryption
Encryption is a great way to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, and it’s also the most effective way to protect your data. Using encryption ensures that any information you send over a network is encrypted, and only those who can decrypt it will be able to read it.
When you use encryption, the data is converted into an unreadable form (ciphertext), which can only be decrypted by certain parties with access to the right keys. These keys are what makes encryption so secure; they ensure that only those who have permission can see the information being sent over the network.
The two types of encryptions used most often today are symmetric key and public/private key. Symmetric key uses a single key for both sending and receiving data, while public/private key uses two different keys: one for encrypting and one for decrypting.
#5. Block Changes to DNS Settings
You can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks by blocking changes to your DNS settings. DNS, or Domain Name System, is the internet’s phone book. It’s a service that translates domain names like google.com into IP addresses like 18.104.22.168 so you don’t have to memorize them all. When hackers hijack your DNS settings and change them to point to a different server, they can intercept any information you send and receive through your browser, including passwords and credit card numbers. To prevent this from happening, go into your router settings and find out if there’s a way to block changes to your DNS settings. If there isn’t, you may want to consider upgrading your router or using one that has this feature built in so that it can be accessed easily on demand.