Man in the Middle Attacks: How They Work and the Best Prevention Strategies
While many cyberattacks like ransomware make their presence known immediately and capitalize on locking a network down, some attacks try to be as clandestine as possible in an effort to steal information. Man in the middle attacks are a prime example of this because a malicious actor’s goal is to never let the user know they are stealing their network information. Rather than immediately taking advantage of a successful attack, hackers will instead gather as much information as they can and use stolen account credentials or credit card information in future attacks. This secrecy makes these attacks especially dangerous but preventing them begins with a strong cybersecurity infrastructure and vigilance!
What is a Man in the Middle Attack?
In a man in the middle attack, malicious actors will insert themselves into the communication loop between a user’s network and a trusted website or app. The malicious actor will then capture and read through all of the information sent between the two sources, and this allows them to capture sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, and user messages as they are sent. Hackers will generally try to steal high value information like log in credentials and banking information, but once they have access to a user’s network traffic, they can steal anything that the user sends out.
How Does a Man in the Middle Attack Work?
Man in the middle attacks generally start with a malware infection resulting from a phishing campaign or other means of infection. The malware will then monitor, or ‘sniff’, the network traffic generated by the user and look for any unsecured information. Man in the middle attacks also frequently make use of website spoofing, and they will redirect the user to a malicious website that impersonates a legitimate site they would use. As the user tries to use the fake website, the malicious actor will steal the user’s data and later use it to access the real website and leverage this information in further attacks.
Prevention and Best Practices
The best way to prevent man in the middle attacks is to make sure a malicious actor never gets an initial foothold in your system. Because man in the middle attacks typically begin with phishing emails, small business employees should have regular and up-to-date phishing awareness training that teaches them the latest tricks malicious actors are using to initiate man in the middle attacks. Another proactive step users can take is appropriately using a VPN when they connect to any network outside of their home or office. These cybersecurity precautions in combination with endpoint protection and other security services will offer the best protection from man in the middle attacks.
Man in the middle attacks rely heavily on gaining an initial foothold in a user’s network without being noticed, but the most common means of infection are preventable with the right preparation and training. If you feel your network is not prepared for man in the middle attacks or other clandestine approaches malicious actors try to take, Robinett Consulting wants to be your partner IT, so we can help you improve your phishing training outcomes and equip your network with the modern cybersecurity tools it deserves.
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