How to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack

Jake Aquilina
October 24, 2022

A man-in-the-middle attack is when someone inserts themselves between you and the person you are communicating with. This can allow the hacker to see all of your communications, as well as change them before they reach the other person. This can be dangerous, especially if you are sending confidential information. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how to protect yourself against man-in-the-middle attacks. We will also discuss what to do if you think you are already being attacked.

What is a man-in-the-middle attack?

What is a man-in-the-middle attack?

A man-in-the-middle attack, often abbreviated as MITM, is a type of cyberattack where a hacker inserts themselves between you and the person or entity that you are communicating with. This allows the hacker to see all of your communications, as well as change them before they reach their intended recipient. Because man-in-the-middle attacks can enable hackers to intercept sensitive information such as passwords and financial data, it is important to take steps to protect yourself against them.

The goal of a man-in-the-middle attacker is to steal personal information, such as login credentials and account details. This can be done through phishing sites or simply through appropriating credential information that was being sent. They typically target users who utilize financial applications or websites where logging in with your own identifying data could allow them to access vital accounts like credit cards for online purchases that would not be possible without it being charged off on an unsuspecting victim's behalf!

In other words, the attack is pretty similar to a mailman opening a letter that was sent by your friend and intended for you. He can change the contents of a letter or simply steal sensitive information. Albeit, this is all done in a digital way.

How does a man-in-the-middle attack work?

How does a man-in-the-middle attack work?

There are several ways that man-in-the-middle attacks can be carried out, and these methods often involve deceiving the user into making a connection with an attacker rather than the intended recipient. One common method is to use phishing emails or websites that appear to be from reputable sources, but are actually designed to trick you into entering your personal information. Another technique involves setting up fake WiFi networks where unsuspecting users may connect, allowing hackers to intercept communications as they take place.

Here is a list of things an attacker might do in a man-in the-middle attack:

This list is not exhaustive but is aimed to give you just an idea of how and why they work the way they do.

How can you protect against man-in-the-middle attacks?

How can you protect against man-in-the-middle attacks?

There are several measures that you can take to help prevent man-in-the-middle attacks from occurring. One strategy is to always verify the security credentials of any website or server that you are communicating with, to ensure that it is actually legitimate. You can also use encryption technologies such as SSL and VPNs to keep your communications secure. Additionally, using strong passwords and avoiding suspicious emails or links can help protect you against man-in-the-middle attacks.

These are the four main things you need to keep an eye out for:

  1. Fake websites (also known as phishing sites)
  2. Intrusive popups
  3. Suspicious certificates
  4. Inconsistent loading times

On the other hand, there are five main ways to prevent MITM attacks.

  1. Secure your connections
  2. Use VPN and trusted networks
  3. Endpoint security
  4. Multifactor authentication
  5. Education

When it comes to securing your connection, this is usually indicating the need to have mutual authentication protocols set up, as well as tamper detection to spot any suspicious behavior happening in your network.

Mutual Authentication

Mutual authentication allows you to understand whether the sender of a message is the sender you intended to communicate with. MITM hackers can succeed if they are able to dupe you into believing that they are the intended receiver of the message, while in reality, they would be impersonating them. Cybersecurity measures such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) can help.

TLS is a cryptographic protocol that "encrypts data sent over the Internet to ensure that eavesdroppers and hackers are unable to see what you transmit which is particularly useful for private and sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personal correspondence". This provides more end-to-end security as it can help authenticate receivers of the message, allowing for fewer chances to be hacked or scammed. In traditional settings, TLS is shown in the form of a padlock next to the URL link.

Tamper Detection

Tamper detection is another strategy that can be used to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks. This technique involves incorporating mechanisms into the communication process that are able to detect any changes or disruptions, such as unauthorized modifications or access attempts. Detecting these changes or disruptions can be made easier by using intrusion detection systems (IDS) which would notify you of any disruptions taking place.

This allows users to receive alerts if they are being targeted by a man-in-the-middle attack, giving them the opportunity to take action and stop the attack before it can do further damage. Some examples of tamper detection methods include digital signatures, encryption, and integrity-checking algorithms. While no single approach is 100% effective in preventing man-in-the-middle attacks, using multiple strategies together can help reduce your risk of being hacked.

Regardless of how man-in-the-middle attacks are carried out, there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself against them. It is important to keep your computer and mobile devices up-to-date with the latest security patches and software updates, as many man-in-the-middle attacks exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software and devices.

What should you do if you are being attacked?

If you suspect that you may be under attack from a man-in-the-middle attack, there are several steps that you can take to try to stop it. One option is to disconnect from any networks that you may be connected to, as this will prevent further communication with the hacker. You can also contact your internet service provider or network administrator for additional assistance. Finally, it is important to report any suspected man-in-the-middle attacks to law enforcement, so that they can investigate and take action against the attackers.

Overall, there are many different ways that you can prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, ranging from securing your connections to using tamper detection tools. By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect yourself, you can greatly reduce your risk of being targeted and help keep your data safe.

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