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Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MitM) and How to Prevent Them

Cyber Criminal

This article was written by Ryan Krawczyk, Security Consultant I at FoxPointe Solutions

Man-in-the-Middle Attack

Phishing and malware attacks have become well known methods of cyber security attacks. But there is another,  less common, but equally dangerous method of attacking: Man-in-the-Middle or Eavesdropping attacks. A Man-in-the-middle attack involves an individual observing or collecting your data that is being sent to a trusted source. Attackers can collect or manipulate data between the two parties. These attacks typically target login information but can also steal account information or even credit card numbers.

For example, an individual attempts to log into their bank account to check their balance. The attacker can eavesdrop on the communication between the individual and their bank. Another example could be that the attacker attempts to impersonate the individual’s bank. The attacker would create a website similar to the official bank website, where the individual would input their login credentials. In either example, the attacker learns the individual’s login credentials and bank account information. This allows the attacker to access the individual’s account, make changes within the account, or lock the individual out of their account.

Ways to Prevent an MitM Attack

There are many ways to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack, but the most effective methods are ensuring connections to secure networks and encryption. It is easiest for attackers to eavesdrop on you while you are connected to public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is designed to be easily accessible which frequently means that they are not password protected and usually have limited, if any, encryption. Hackers can use this unprotected connection to spy on your data.

Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to ensure that your connection is encrypted and secured. A VPN creates a secured channel that prevents your data from being viewed by malicious third parties. VPNs also encrypt your data which ensures that any attacker that does manage to eavesdrop on your data, the data will be scrambled and useless to them.

Another simple way to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks is to ensure the use of multifactor authentication, or MFA. MFA is a useful tool to ensure that login credentials are verified with another code, typically received through a text or email. If your login credentials are compromised, the use of MFA can protect your account until you are able to change your credentials.