What may appear harmless everyday activities like shopping online, checking bank accounts, and sending confidential emails–has the potential to become catastrophic.
These are all commonplace for data breaches, and one of the ways hackers can get to your information is through the Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack.
In this article, we’ll talk about what it is and how to protect yourself from the attack that accounts for 19% of successful digital attacks in the world.
What is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack?
An MITM attack is a tactic used by an unauthorized third party to intercept a message between two individuals who believe they are directly communicating with each other.
In simple words, a malicious middleman secretly eavesdrops on their conversation, gaining access to personal information. It’s a deceptive tactic used to gather, modify, or steal information.
The hacker in disguise can alter the text of each party’s text and easily trick the other into revealing sensitive data. Some of the most common scenarios include:
- Public Wi-Fi networks: Be cautious of using WiFi in cafes, airports, and hotels as they are often poorly secured and don’t require passwords, so anyone has access, including hackers.
- Vulnerable routers: If your home or office router is compromised, it can become a gateway for MITM attacks.
- Malicious software: Some malware can enable MITM attacks by redirecting your internet traffic through the attacker’s servers.
- Spoofed websites: Cybercriminals create fake websites that mimic legitimate ones to trick you into sharing sensitive information.
The first step to keep your information secure is awareness. Being aware of these potential scenarios can help you recognize dangerous pathways for possible MITM threats and take appropriate precautions.
How Does a Man-in-the-Middle Attack Work?
Imagine you’re having a private conversation with a friend, but someone is secretly listening in, intercepting your messages, and stealing your sensitive information.
This is precisely what an MITM attack looks like in the digital world. This is how it happens.
These stealthy attackers secretly position themselves between the victim and the intended destination and intercept all data exchanged.
Their favorite places to hideout are public Wi-Fi networks, compromised routers, and malicious software installed onto user’s devices. In fact, 560,000 new pieces of malware are detected every day, and now, more than 1 billion malware programs are circulating the internet.
So, next time you want to download something, carefully check the source.
Once data has been intercepted (and potentially altered) by the cybercriminal, it gets relayed to the intended destination, making it seem like a regular response.
Meanwhile, it remains unnoticed that the data being exchanged is being monitored and manipulated.
If that’s not alarming enough, it takes an average of 277 days – roughly nine months – for someone to identify and report a data breach.
3. Exploitation Attempts
An MITM attack grants the attacker access to exploit various vulnerabilities. With that access, login credentials, financial information, and sensitive documents can all be uncovered.
In more advanced attacks, the cybercriminal can inject malicious code into the communication stream, amplifying the effects of the attack.
How to Protect Yourself From an MITM Attack
Now that we know how a Man-in-the-Middle attack can occur, let’s learn how to protect yourself from cybercrimes.
1. Use Trusted and Secured Networks
It is best practice to only connect to trusted and secure networks.
Public WiFi found at coffee shops and offices should never be used for sensitive tasks involving finances or accessing confidential work-related data.
If you must use public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data traffic.
2. Check for HTTPS
Did you know the “s” at the end of the “https” indicates whether a website uses a secure, encrypted connection or not?
While most modern browsers display a padlock icon in the address bar when a secure connection is established, you can confirm the security based on the URL.
If it starts with “https://,” you’ll know it’s secure, whereas “http://” should raise concerns.
3. Device & Software Updates
Verify your operating system, web browsers, and security software are up-to-date to ensure security patches are installed to protect against vulnerabilities.
4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
2FA was designed to make it extra challenging for cybercriminals to obtain access to your accounts and applications.
Even if they manage to get ahold of your login information, they likely won’t be able to get past this second layer of protection – a code sent to a device like your smartphone.
Enhance your security with this feature whenever possible.
Protecting your online presence from threats like Man-in-the-Middle attacks is crucial in the modern world.
Stay vigilant, use secure networks, and implement security measures like verifying HTTPS and keeping backups of data in secured storage devices.
Reduce the risk of becoming the next victim in one of these malicious attacks, and learn more about VPNs if you frequently use public WiFi.
Remember, prevention is the best defense when it comes to online security. Stay safe, stay secure, and cruise the internet with confidence.