Have you heard of man-in-the-middle attacks? It is a type of virtual threat in which criminals act as an intermediary between the victim and another entity involved (such as bank websites, e-mail accounts or even other users).
For this reason, as the name suggests, hackers act as intruders or “men in the middle” of a particular online transaction or action. With interference, the goal is usually to steal data, but other interests may come into play.
Learn more about this type of cybercrime and how to prevent it! What is my ip address vpn?
What is a man-in-the-middle attack?
In a safe interaction, the two parties communicate without any kind of third party intervention, right? As we mentioned, man-in-the-middle is a form of cyber-attack in which this intervention takes place, with the criminal making use of techniques to participate in communication and intercept data.
It is interesting to highlight here that the attacker can either interfere passively (blocking, altering or stealing information without the victim noticing it) or actively, modifying the content of messages or posing as the person or system involved in the communication.
Generally, the goal of a man-in-the-middle attack is to steal victims’ data (such as login credentials or personal information), but criminals can also act to sabotage communications, spy on groups or corrupt data.
One of the most common manifestations of this cybercrime is to intercept the interaction between a user and his online bank. As a result, attackers seek to keep confidential information and make financial profits.
Man-in-the-middle: types and techniques
Here’s a bit of history: man-in-the-middle is one of the oldest forms of cyber threat. In fact, experts have been trying to prevent data interception and snooping strategies since the early 1980s.
In this sense, one of the biggest challenges presented by this type of threat is precisely its difficulty in detection. Depending on the target and objective of cybercriminals, a wide range of attack tactics can be used.
Check out some of the most applied techniques:
DNS cache poisoning
Here, the attacker provides a fake DNS entry that leads to a malicious website – the portal can resemble Google, for example. From there, the hacker is able to steal any data that the user reports to the site, such as login credentials and password, for example.
In this tactic, criminals operate through unsecured public Wi-Fi networks or even create Wi-Fi networks with common names – thereby leading people to connect and steal their information (such as credentials and credit card numbers) .
ARP Cache Poisoning
First, it is worth remembering that ARP (Address Resolution Protocol, in translation) is a process used to convert physical addresses into IP addresses on the local network.
This man-in-the-middle technique thus inserts false information into the ARP and induces the victim’s computer to consider that the hacker’s computer is the network gateway itself.
With this, the criminal is able to access all the victim’s network traffic, without the victim noticing any abnormality.
Session hijacking (session hijacking)
In this type of man-in-the-middle attack, the attacker steals the cookie from the victim’s browsing session when they are logging into a web page (such as email or bank account).
With theft, hackers are able to log into these same accounts from their own browsers, carrying out any transactions they wish.
HTTPS spoofing (HTTPS spoofing)
The HTTPS “s” is one way of knowing that a website is in fact secure. The problem is that hackers take advantage of this notion to create sites that look legitimate and even appear to have authentication certificates – but the URL is slightly different and can deliver the scam.
Unfortunately, however, many unsuspecting victims fall into the trap.
Attack variant: what about man-in-the-browser?
When it comes to the man-in-the-middle attack, it is also important to highlight its man-in-the-browser variant.
In this form of threat, criminals use more complex tactics and install malware or malicious code on victims’ browsers. As users browse the internet, malware records information that is sent to websites.
It is worth adding two features that make the man-in-the-browser variation quite popular:
1. This attack can reach thousands of victims simultaneously;
2. Criminals can act from other countries, which makes them less vulnerable to local law.
How to identify a man-in-the-middle attack?
Although many of these threats are difficult to detect, it is possible to use some valuable tips to identify the problem. In this regard, be aware of the following possible signs of man-in-the-middle attack:
- network connections to strange / atypical locations;
- URLs with strange characters, which may be omitting a session hijacking attack;
- disconnections that happen repeatedly or unexpectedly, which may indicate hacker action;
- Connections to public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
How to prevent yourself: best protection practices
As always, acting preventively is much better than cure (and also simpler). Keep an eye out for tips to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks:
- Never connect to public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Ideally, use only routers that have WPA2 security;
- Bet on cryptography to protect chats, emails and videoconferencing applications (like Zoom and Microsoft Teams);
- Keep all systems up to date, with appropriate patch adjustments;
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt traffic between endpoints and the VPN server (on the corporate network or the internet). If the traffic is encrypted, the man-in-the-middle attack has a harder time stealing or modifying it;
- Apply multi-factor authentication whenever possible;
- Monitor network activities to identify possible compromises or abnormal usage behavior;
- Apply DNS over HTTPS, an innovative technology that encrypts DNS requests and protects against hijacking;
- Access only secure connections, that is, HTTPS. To ensure this care, a tip is to implement a browser plugin;
- To avoid reusing passwords and strengthen protection, adopt a password manager;
- The man-in-the-browser variant requires the adoption of a good anti-malware tool, which is also effective against an immense variety of cyber threats.
So, did you like the content? Staying on top of major cyber threats and best security practices is essential to protect corporate, strategic and sensitive data.