Man in The Middle (MiTM) Attack – Everything You Need to Know

There are numerous security threats that cybercriminals use to exploit unsafe and insecure applications. A man-in-the-middle attack is a kind of eavesdropping attack, where hackers interrupt data transfer or existing conversation. During the transfer, they insert themselves in the middle and pretend to be legitimate participants.

This attack aims to get access to personal information such as credit card details, account numbers, and login credentials. The man-in-the-middle attack’s prime targets are the users of eCommerce websites, SaaS businesses, and financial applications. Attackers use this information for several purposes, including illicit password change, unapproved funds transfer or identity theft.

How To Detect Man-In-The-Middle Attack?
  • Repeated or unexpected disconnections

Attackers disconnect users to intercept the user’s login credentials. By regularly monitoring unexpected disconnections can help you detect the MitM attack proactively.

  • Connecting unsecured or public WiFi

Never connect your devices with unsecured WiFi. Attackers build fake networks to trick and lure people into connecting. If you use unprotected WiFi, an attacker can access everything you send over that network.

  • Keep an eye on strange addresses on the browser

If anything in the browser address bar looks suspicious, double-check it as it might be a DNS hijack. For instance, if you see instead of

  • Email hijacking

Attackers also target the email accounts of financial institutions to monitor customer transactions. The attackers then use the bank’s email address and deliver their instructions. Therefore, never blindly follow instructions given in any email, especially those that instruct you to perform any kind of transaction.

  • Browser cookies stealing

Cybercriminals steal browser cookies to gain access to your email address, passwords and other confidential information. So when you visit any website, never accept cookies before reading their complete policy.

How To Prevent Man-In-The-Middle Attack?

Preventing man-in-the-middle attacks needs several steps to be done by users and a combination of verification and encryption methods for applications.

Users can avoid MitM attacks by:

1. Carefully monitoring browser notifications reporting any website as being unsafe.

2. Avoiding public WiFi connections.

3. Log out of applications immediately when you’re not using them.

4. Never use open networks such as hotels, coffee shops, etc., when conducting confidential transactions.

For website owners, protect communication protocols, including HTTPS and TLS, to mitigate attacks by firmly encrypting and authenticating all the transmitted data. It is preferred for applications to use TLS/SSL to secure every page of the website that require user credentials to log in. In addition, it will decrease the chance of cybercriminals stealing session cookies on an unsecured portion of the website.

Putting It All Together

MitM attacks are a perpetual arms race between network providers and software developers to close the vulnerabilities cybercriminals exploit to execute attacks. Since the number of devices connecting with networks is immensely rising, the opportunities for cybercriminals are significantly increasing to use MitM techniques.

The best way to reduce the damage caused by MitM attacks is to embrace the software development life cycle. Modern techniques such as manual penetration testing and static code analysis can detect potential security flaws. Moreover, stay informed and ensure that your devices are properly secured.