While internet users have become more security-conscious in recent years, cybercriminals are also becoming more inventive. One of the most popular techniques to compromise a user’s data is the man-in-the-middle attack, or MITM attack. This type of cyber attack involves an attacker intercepting and manipulating data sent between two parties without either party knowing. This article explains what a man-in-the-middle cyber attack is and how you can protect yourself from one.
What is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack?
A man-in-the-middle attack is an attempt to tamper with communication by putting one’s self between two other parties’ communications. The attacker attempts to get their computer inserted into the communication between two other parties – usually by tricking one of the parties into believing that the attacker’s computer is the intended recipient of the communication. Once the attacker is in the middle of the communication, they can intercept and decrypt messages. The attacker might also be able to add new software to the communication, infecting one or both parties’ computers with malware. In some cases, the attacker might actually be able to take over the computers of one or both parties, reading everything that person has typed or controlling that person’s computer as if it were his or her own.
How Does a Man in the Middle Cyber Attack Work?
A man-in-the-middle attack requires two steps: the attacker has to insert themselves between the two parties, and then they have to stay in the middle of the communication long enough to actually do damage. This is done by using a variety of techniques, such as ARP spoofing, DNS spoofing, or SMTP relaying. The first step is to get between the two parties. The attacker will try to trick one of the parties into thinking they’re the other party by responding to a request before the intended recipient has even sent one. A common example of this is an attacker who pretends to be a Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place, like an airport or cafe. If you connect to the “free Wi-Fi” but don’t notice the network name, you might not realize that you’re actually connecting to the attacker’s computer.
How to Protect Yourself From a Man in the Middle Attack?
The best way to protect against MITM attacks is to use encryption. If you’re using a secure connection (HTTPS) with a valid security certificate, the MITM attack will be prevented. And the best way to avoid MITM attacks is to be aware of the risks. Be careful about connecting to free Wi-Fi, watch for things that look fishy on your network or when connecting to other networks, and practice good computer hygiene. An important thing to remember is that not all MITM attacks will be obvious. A malicious network (like an evil Wi-Fi network) will usually be obvious, but a malicious app on your computer could be much more difficult to detect.
Man-in-the-middle attacks are a serious threat to data privacy, as they allow hackers to eavesdrop on communications and even tamper with them. To protect against man-in-the-middle attacks, always use a secure connection (HTTPS) with a valid security certificate, and be aware of the risks involved with connecting to unknown networks or networks with weak security.