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  • Writer's pictureAline Silva | PhishX

What is a Man-in-the-Middle attack and how to protect yourself?

Cybercriminals have a single goal, to steal information from their victims so that it can be used in scams and other crimes, and the way this data can be intercepted happens in several ways.

 

One of them is through the Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack, where hackers place traps of sorts to lure their victims into banking websites and email accounts.

 

These attacks are very efficient and difficult for people to detect, so they pose an imminent risk to data security.

 

In the case of companies, the dangers involve compromising the integrity, confidentiality and availability of information. Want to learn more about these attacks and how to protect yourself? Keep reading this text.


How does a Man-in-the-Middle attack occur?


You may have heard that it is important to cover your webcam and that you cannot click on any links, these are some preventive measures against MITM attacks.

 

A Man-in-the-Middle attack means "Man in the Middle," which is a reference to Portuguese the attacker who intercepts the data.

 

The concept behind it is quite simple and is not restricted to the online environment alone. In a MITM attack, the attacker positions themselves between two parties trying to communicate and thereby intercepts the messages sent.

 

With the intercepted message, he impersonates one of the parties involved and thus manages to steal data and sensitive information from his victims.

 

These attacks can occur online or offline, and the first fruits are the same, the attacker needs to intercept information somehow.


Attack on Public Wi-Fi Networks


Public Wi-Fi networks pose a number of risks to our data, and they are used by criminals in MITM attacks.

 

In these cases, the attacker creates a fake Wi-Fi access point that looks like a known network, such as an establishment. This allows people to connect to the fake access point and allow the attacker to intercept and manipulate data traffic.

 

In addition, there are unencrypted Wi-Fi networks where criminals are able to hack and capture data traffic using packet sniffing tools like Wireshark.

 

That's why it's very important for people to be aware of how public Wi-Fi networks can be detrimental to our digital security.


Installation of Interceptor Devices

 

In this case, malicious devices are installed in strategic locations on a corporate network to intercept and manipulate data traffic. This action poses a serious threat to the security and privacy of the organization's data.

 

Devices such as:


·         Packet sniffers;

·         Hardware implants;

·         Firmware modifications.

 

They are strategically positioned to capture, monitor, and in some cases manipulate data traffic. With this, attackers are able to obtain sensitive information from employees and customers, which is used in their scams.


HTTPS Connection Downgrade


MITM attacks in HTTPS Connection Downgrade are carried out in two ways, the first is what we call SSL Stripping.

 

In this case, the attacker forces a user's connection to a website to be made via HTTP instead of HTTPS, thereby removing the encryption layer and allowing data interception and manipulation.

 

In the case of Fake SSL Certificates, the attacker uses fake or compromised SSL certificates to trick users into believing that they are communicating securely.

 

Both attacks use people's inattention to steal information, this is a method widely used by criminals, who take advantage of people's lack of knowledge.

Phishing attacks

 

Phishing attacks are old acquaintances when it comes to data security, and this tactic is widely used by criminals who practice MITM.

 

In this way, criminals send fake emails or messages disguised as legitimate communications from trusted companies or even well-known people.

 

Usually, the messages contain malicious links that direct people to fake pages where their login information or data is requested.

 

By clicking on these links, the information is intercepted and redirected to a server controlled by the attacker.


How to protect yourself from a Man-in-the-Middle attack?

 

The risks of MITM in companies can range from leakage of sensitive data and distortions in important communications, to financial losses and of course data theft.

 

As we have seen, these attacks occur in different ways and are directed at people who can be exposed when using a Wi-Fi network or even opening an email, but know that there are some ways to protect yourself from these actions.


Cryptography


Encryption is undoubtedly one of the best ways to protect yourself against these attacks. Because they include an extra layer of security, ensuring the integrity of the data.

 

Because of this, it is essential to implement strong encryption in all network communications, especially in sensitive connections such as remote access, email communications, and financial transactions.


This hinders the attackers' ability to intercept and read data traffic.

 

It ensures that data is encrypted on the source device and remains encrypted until its destination. This prevents attackers from intercepting or accessing the contents of the messages.

 

This way, when using encryption, even if an attacker accesses the data in transit, it will be unreadable.


Multi-Factor Authentication


Like encryption, multifactor authentication (MFA) is an additional layer of security, but a little different. That's because it requires more than one form of identity verification to allow access to an account or system.

 

MFA typically combines a password, a mobile device, and biometrics. This approach makes it more difficult for criminals to gain unauthorized access.

 

As a result, even if they have managed to compromise a user's login credentials, they will not have access to the system.

 

By adding additional layers of identity verification, organizations significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access, strengthening their cyber defenses and protecting the confidentiality and integrity of corporate and personal data.


Security Updates


Security updates play a very important role in protecting systems from MITM attacks. That's because attackers exploit known vulnerabilities in systems and devices.

 

In this way, by keeping all systems and software up-to-date with the latest security patches, organizations can close these security holes and significantly reduce the attack surface available to attackers.


Training & Awareness


People's awareness and training play a very important role in defending against MITM attacks.

 

 After all, people tend to be the weakest link in an organization's cybersecurity chain and are therefore frequent targets. In addition, many of them do not know how to recognize an attack and thus become victims.


The trainings provide people with the skills and knowledge they need to recognize and prevent cybersecurity threats.

 

When organizations educate people to identify signs of phishing, such as suspicious emails, untrusted links, and requests for sensitive information, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of these attacks succeeding.

 

Therefore, by increasing people's awareness of cybersecurity best practices and providing regular training on how to recognize and report suspicious activity, businesses can create an effective security culture.


PhishX in Combating Man-in-the-Middle Attacks


PhishX is an ecosystem that brings cybersecurity knowledge to people, through our platform organizations can create an effective security policy to combat MITM attacks.

 

This is because our platform has several tools such as phishing simulations that put people in real scenarios and make them know how to identify attacks and their actions.

 

In addition, our ecosystem has a library full of content such as videos, booklets, and support materials on the most diverse topics, so people will become familiar with the various attacks and how they happen.


It is important to understand that just as attacks are directed at people, they need to know how to protect themselves and only with the necessary education will this be possible.

 



Man in a hood looking at a notebook.
Man-in-the-Middle attacks compromise your organization's data security.

 

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