To protect your online data seems not so easy in the current time, especially when attackers are frequently bringing new techniques to steal your online information. Have you ever thought about that someone could sniff your communication without your awareness? Most of the user’s answer will be “NO”. However, this could happen to you, if you are not aware of one of the hazardous cyber attacks named “Man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attack”.
What is MITM (Man-in-the-middle) Attack?
When an attacker breaks any communication by sniffing any information, which is sent out between the sender and the receiver is called as Man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attack. The main cause behind this attack is unencrypted data that makes easy for an attacker to read and recognize the data. The attacker collects the traffic coming from a sender and, then forward to the user destination (receiver).
Generally, attackers target public area to make such attack happen. Attackers use a Wi-Fi router to sniff victim’s communication. Attackers expose router by injecting malicious program and configure their laptop as Wi-Fi hotspot with a familiar name for example airport, coffee shop etc. When the user tries to access banking website or any e-commerce site, attackers record user’s information for later use.
Let us understand in detail about MITM attack within an example:
Example of MITM:
For example, there are three persons named Robert, Johnny and Tom (attacker). Robert wants to communicate with Johnny. Now, Tom with a view to sniff the communication carries out fake conversion with Johnny behalf of Robert. First, Robert asks Johnny for a public key and when Johnny provides the key to Robert, Tom will intercept the key. Then, Tom will send a fake message to Robert with his own public-key pretending to be a legitimate message coming from Johnny. Robert believes that the communication is legitimate, but it is not true. Finally, Robert encrypts his message with Tom’s public key and sends the converted message back to Johnny.
Before two months, Facebook had a serious security flaw that could invite attacker to sniff a user’s traffic, including access token found by the penetration tester Ahmed Elsobky. Attacker steals Facebook user’s access token that stores information about permission as well tokens itself. After that, an attacker can sniff victim’s data and do any activity on behalf of the user.
Precautions against MITM:
- Always use public-key infrastructure with mutual authentication that will not only protect the application from data sniffing, but also validates the application as a legitimate one.
- Use strong encryption between the client and the server. The server with digital certificate can establish its valid identity that will help both the client and the server to communicate in a secure environment.
- Use time testing techniques that measure the total time of a message delivery time. If it takes more than 60 seconds, then there might be going on an MITM activity.
- Check the credentials on a regular basis. Secure your passwords and make it complex. Keep your password updated every three months.
- Avoid use of public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, airport or any public place as it might you fall into victim and steal your login credentials.
Role of SSL in prevention of MITM attack:
Insecure information transmitting between the server and browser is an intimidating risk and that can be snooped by any third party. SSL is the only solution that encrypts the information to prevent it from spying eyes. If we talk about MITM attack there is high chance data sniffing, in that case SSL binds the information with strong 256-bit encryption to keep MITM attack away.
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MITM attack is evolving day by day. The use of unsecured or public Wi-Fi is also responsible for it. The hacker daily targets users without their awareness, therefore the above precautions will help users and organizations in a beneficial way. If you have any recommendation, then you are welcome to share here.
Image credit: owasp.org
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