By now, the terms “malware” and “virus” are commonplace within the cybersecurity space. However, as attackers refine their approaches – those defending against these attacks have coined more specific terms for them. One example of this is the man in the middle (MITM) attack that has increased in frequency over the past few years.
What Happens in a MITM Attack?
Many cyber attackers use phishing as an approach to gain access to confidential information. In these instances, attackers deliver an email or other communication pretending to be from an authentic source. With a MITM attack, criminals essentially hijack a real-time conversation between two parties, eavesdropping on the messages sent back and forth to college confidential data. They gain access to information that they can manipulate or sell to others with malicious intent.
MITM attackers want information that will help them commit fraud. They look for credit card numbers or other payment information, login credentials for password-protected websites, or account information. What they do with this information is nearly limitless, but generally, attackers aim to commit fraud or identity theft using the data collected. In cases where login information is compromised for a site, hackers often change the password once they gain entry, making it harder for those attacked to rectify the situation once noticed.
What Makes a MITM Attack Possible?
While MITM attackers have a number of ways to intercept private conversations, the most common method involves creating free, public-access WiFi networks or hotspots. From the outside, those in the area see an unprotected network to connect with quickly to gain access to the internet, for free. Often, attackers use the names of businesses in the area to make the network seem more legitimate or secure to potential victims. However, connecting to these hotspots grants full visibility for their creators to eavesdrop and gather information sent or received by a device.
IP spoofing is another method, in which scammers create Internet Protocol (IP) packets with modified source addresses, often to impersonate another application or system. Visitors to a certain URL connected to this system are directed to the impersonator’s website and they never know the difference.
Potential Dangers to Businesses with Man in the Middle Schemes
While all individuals regularly accessing the internet need to be aware of potential cyber attacks like MITM, businesses especially need awareness as well as a proactive plan in place to best prevent them from becoming victims. When an attacker intercepts personal conversations between individuals, they gain access to information about those individuals and their households – potentially putting the cyber and financial security of multiple people at risk.
However, when conversations are intercepted that are either business related or occur on company devices, the number of potentially impacted individuals is much higher. Add to that the hit a company image takes when data breaches occur and customer information is compromised, and MITM attacks can have significant implications for an organization.
Protecting Against MITM Attacks
MITM attacks carry the potential for sensitive information belonging to entire companies, their customers, and their employees to be compromised. So, organizations need a preventative plan in place to educate and train their employees on cyber attacks like these and how to defend against them. One thing to reinforce in that training is the need for employees to log out of any secure applications or programs when not using them. Remaining logged into applications at all times means that if a device connects to a WiFi network created by hackers in a MITM scheme – information transmitted or stored in those apps is put at risk.
On a similar note, employees should be trained not to connect to unprotected WiFi networks, especially when handling any business-related communications or transactions. While it’s tempting to connect to an open coffee shop network to log in on the go, doing so puts too much trust in a network the organization has no control over in terms of security.
Another precaution to take with employees is ensuring they take notifications regarding unsecure networks or URLs seriously. Often, popups or notifications near the URL address bar go unnoticed or ignored which leaves individuals and businesses more vulnerable to cyber attacks, including MITM.
Thinking big picture, businesses need to ensure security within communications systems, implementing encryption measures that make information obtained by MITM attackers unusable.
Advice for Businesses without In-House IT Expertise
Because of the growing reliance on technology for business communications and operations, IT needs to be a core focus for owners looking to function effectively long-term. For those without an experienced IT team or individual in place, it’s critical to bring in experts to both train organizational members on cybersecurity and implement robust security measures to keep the company and its team safe.
At Kustura Technologies, we offer a variety of cybersecurity services, created to effectively protect information shared and stored electronically. Without preventative measures put into action, it is not a matter of if a cyber attack might occur, but more likely a matter of when. MITM attacks, ransomware, viruses, and other malicious efforts can significantly halt business operations. In some cases, damage done with illegally-accessed data leads to an organization’s demise.
Our business-level cyber IT security systems effectively protect that data including stored files and communications over multiple channels. Kustura experts monitor that security 24/7 to ensure you are protected from cyber threats – at all times. To learn more about our cybersecurity offerings, including employee training on email and other cybersecurity topics, contact the team at Kustura Technologies today!