In today's interconnected world, where information is constantly being transmitted over networks, the risk of cyber attacks is ever present. According to research conducted by Cofense Intelligence, man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks increased by 35% between Q1 2022 and Q1 2023.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how modern authentication solutions can help safeguard your workforce and organization from these threats by reducing the likelihood, impact, and scale of an attack.
A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is a type of cyber threat that occurs when a malicious actor intercepts or alters the communication between two parties who believe they are communicating directly. In this type of attack, the attacker can eavesdrop on conversations, steal sensitive information, or inject malware into the communication stream without the knowledge of either party.
One of the most common methods of MITM attacks is known as “sniffing”. Using this method, hackers will deploy tools to inspect packets of data with the aim of intercepting unencrypted information, such as plaintext passwords, from the victim. A skilled hacker can not only intercept communication by exploiting vulnerabilities in the network, they can also then launch further attacks on any device connected to that network.
As noted by Enisa, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, a MITM attack usually involves two steps. The first is intercepting raw data by gaining access to the network. The second step is circumventing any encryption and authentication protocols that the target device/victim has in place.
There are several types of MITM attack methods that attackers can use to intercept, monitor and manipulate communication between two parties. Understanding the different types of MITM attacks is crucial for organizations to implement effective security measures to safeguard against these types of cyber attacks.
In this type of attack, the attacker impersonates a trusted IP address to gain access to the network and intercept messages. IP spoofing is typically used to launch DDoS attacks on servers. One of the biggest examples of spoofing occurred in 2017 when Google absorbed a 2.5 (network) terabyte per second DDoS attack.
This form of attack is achieved through a method known as DNS Cache Poisoning – With this method, the attacker manipulates the DNS (Domain Name System) server to redirect the target's traffic to a fake website in order to steal sensitive information from the unsuspecting victim.
The attacker intercepts and decrypts SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) traffic to steal sensitive information.
The attacker uses a Wifi sniffer to eavesdrop on wireless traffic and steal sensitive information.
The attacker steals session IDs to hijack the user's session and gain access to the target's account. This type of attack is particularly insidious as the attacker can stay logged in until the session is timed out.
To protect against man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks, organizations should follow these security measures.
Implement network segmentation to divide your organization's network into separate segments. This helps isolate critical systems and sensitive data, making it more challenging for attackers to move laterally within the network and conduct MitM attacks.
Utilize robust firewall solutions and intrusion detection systems (IDS) or intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to monitor network traffic for signs of malicious activity, including potential MitM attacks. These systems can help identify and block suspicious network traffic patterns.
Establish an internal Certificate Authority infrastructure to issue and manage SSL/TLS certificates for your organization's websites, services, and internal communication. This helps ensure the integrity of your certificates and reduces the risk of attackers issuing fraudulent certificates.
Regularly assess your organization's infrastructure for vulnerabilities and perform penetration testing to identify potential entry points for MITM attacks. This proactive approach allows you to address security weaknesses before they can be exploited.
If your organization provides Wi-Fi access to employees or guests, use secure Wi-Fi protocols such as WPA2 or WPA3. Additionally, consider implementing enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solutions that offer features like client isolation and certificate-based authentication to minimize the risk of MitM attacks on wireless networks.
Develop and enforce strict security policies for employees, including guidelines for using secure communication protocols, recognizing and reporting suspicious activities, and adhering to password best practices. Regularly train employees on security awareness and educate them about the risks of MITM attacks.
Consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric authentication for accessing sensitive systems and data. This adds an extra layer of protection, making it more difficult for attackers to impersonate legitimate users.
Encrypt sensitive data at rest and in transit. Use strong encryption algorithms to protect data when stored in databases, on servers, or during transmission. Encryption helps ensure that even if intercepted, the data remains unreadable to unauthorized individuals.
Deploy security information and event management (SIEM) solutions to monitor network traffic and log events. Analyzing network traffic patterns can help identify anomalies and potential MitM attacks in real-time, enabling a swift response.
Educate employees about MITM attacks, their consequences, and how to detect and report suspicious activities. Provide ongoing security awareness training to reinforce best practices and keep employees informed about emerging threats.
Keyless provides a credential-free multi-factor authentication solution that can help reduce the impact of MITM attacks by limiting the amount of sensitive data that can be stolen during an attack. With Keyless, users are authenticated using advanced, privacy-preserving facial recognition (inherence) and device verification (possession) – eliminating the need for passwords and single-use credentials like OTPs.
This essentially makes it impossible for hackers to steal sensitive login credentials that would otherwise allow them to gain access to employee accounts and company systems.
Furthermore, Keyless can integrate with remote working apps such as VPNs to help protect remote employees accessing company email or data from unsecured networks. Lastly, Keyless can enable organizations to authenticate users more often without hurting productivity, helping to enforce zero-trust security environments that stop attackers from moving laterally through a network.
By implementing Keyless, alongside other critical security measures, you can significantly enhance your defenses against MITM attacks and protect sensitive information from interception and manipulation.