A man-in-the-middle attack is a hacking technique that intercepts communication between two or more systems. While its name might come off as matter-of-fact, the method in itself is one of the most terrifying out there.
Consider man-in-the-middle attacks to be eavesdropping on steroids, where the hacker can listen in to different types of online communication depending on the placement of the bug.
Due to the variation in attacks, we should first look into common types of man-in-the-middle attacks before diving into prevention techniques.
Types of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
As the name suggests, Wi-Fi eavesdropping refers to where hackers listen in on Wi-Fi communications. Open Wi-Fi networks provide especially easy targets for hackers. Since a public network doesn’t require authentication, a skilled hacker could easily take control of the admin functions and intercept the communications on the network. Conversely, instead of trying to hack into a pre-established network, some hackers set up their networks. The network could be functional or set up using a fake node, but they all serve the same function in the end.
The difference between the HTTPS and HTTP protocols is that the former is encrypted while the latter is not. An unencrypted protocol is a prime target for hacking, which is why HTTP interception is a common type of man-in-the-middle attacks. Through HTTP interception, the hacker gains access to all communication transmitted through that particular website including login credentials and such sensitive information.
As you may have guessed, email hijacking involves intercepting email communications. However, the thing that makes email hijacking more dangerous than most other man-in-the-middle attacks is that the hacker can influence your decision-making by sending you emails. In such cases, the man-in-the-middle attack goes a step further by involving social engineering – a technique that involves hacking people instead of computers. Other attacks require additional actions such as hacking into accounts using stolen login credentials. However, when it comes to email hijacking, the hacker could easily convince you to send finances or crucial information to them directly.
DNS spoofing, also known as DNS poisoning, involves intercepting and redirecting server traffic from a legitimate to a fake one. Mainly, the server will operate as it would in normal circumstances. However, all communication sent to the server would be redirected to a server set up by the hacker.
Measures to take against Man-in-the-middle attacks
Employ the Use of Cybersecurity Tools
By relying on various cybersecurity tools, you could minimize the possibility and occurrence of these attacks. Of course, for the best protection against man-in-the-middle attacks, you need more comprehensive cybersecurity. Therefore, you should understand the necessity, function, weaknesses, and strengths of each cybersecurity tool at your disposal.
For starters, you need to combine the use of both Tor and VPN. Although the anonymity provides by using Tor is excellent, the downside is that it allows for insufficient privacy since it lacks encryption and is easily identifiable. On the other hand, while a VPN is the gold standard for privacy, it has its shortcomings when it comes to anonymity since it’s easy to identify the VPN server. However, by using Tor over VPN, you are guaranteed the best in privacy and anonymity without any of the shortcomings.
Aside from Tor and VPN, you also need the help of an antivirus. While using Tor over VPN might keep your data from being accessible online, the fact remains that the interception of your device is possible. The best way to protect against any intrusive malware used by hackers to intercept and steal information is by using an antivirus.
Exercising caution and vigilance online
Although it may sound like a fairly straightforward solution, it is also the path least taken. On how many occasions have you made time to confirm whether you typed in or got redirected to the correct website? How many times do you verify the sender’s address before replying to an email? The fact that most people ignore such obvious red flags is what makes man-in-the-middle attacks such a menacing problem. Before hurriedly keying in your credentials, you should take the time to confirm that, at the very least, you are using a secure site.
Be educated on common cyber attacks
Cyber threats evolve every year, which is why it is advisable to update your information as often as possible. Moreover, just knowing the types of attacks without understanding the techniques used or the mode of execution and operation is insufficient. Only by understanding the nature of attacks and what they evolve to can you devise better strategies to protect yourself.
Man-in-the-middle attacks rely on the interception of information as it is in transmission across the various system. Therefore, it follows that to protect against such attacks, one should find ways to ensure that the communications are unidentifiable and either impossible to intercept or impossible to decode if intercepted.