What Is Man In The Middle Attack?

In this article, learn about the man in the middle attack, how the MITM attack works, and ways to prevent this attack for your website security.

From a beginner to an advanced WordPress user, everyone worries about their WordPress website security. No matter how good of a content management system WordPress is, it still has vulnerabilities like the man in the middle attack vulnerability that need our attention.

Hacker utilizes many attacks such as injections attacks like OS command injection attacks, LDAP injection attacks, or other dangerous attacks like distributed denial of service attacks, traversal attacks, etc. It is a never-ending cycle of attacks, and you can only break it by providing absolute security to your website. WordPress security might seem complicated, but it is pretty simple once you know what you are supposed to do. This article will impart some information regarding man-in-the-middle attacks to help you with website security. 

Man in the middle attack

Man In The Middle(MITM) Attack

Man in the middle attack is an attack where a hacker intercepts a conversation between the user and the website that helps him steal valuable information from both parties or send malicious data to them without being detected. This attack often happens on websites that require login authentication like e-commerce websites, service-providing websites, and such.

How will the hacker use the information he gathered using this attack for his benefit? He can use it for identity theft, stealing your bank account details that can cause you financial loss, or use your current password to create a new one. This attack, if successful, can be very nightmarish.

man in the middle attack

How Does A Man In The Middle Attack Work?

A hacker executes the man in the middle in two simple steps: Interception and decryption. 

Interception

The easy way for a hacker to launch this step is by creating malicious hotspots. When a victim connects to such hotspots that aren’t protected, a hacker can easily surveillance the data transfer of that person on the internet. Interception can be possible for a hacker in several other ways like:

  1. A hacker can create a URL similar to the legitimate website, and when a user tries using this URL, assuming it to be the original URL, they get directed to the hacker’s website.
  2. A hacker can link his MAC address to the user’s IP address, and the data sent to the user by the website will instead get transmitted to the hacker.
  3. A hacker can change the website address record by manipulating the DNS server, and whenever users try to visit the website, they get transferred to the hacker’s website.

Decryption

Decryption follows interception in the process of man in the middle attack. There are several ways to achieve this step:

  1. A hacker sends a fake certificate to the user’s browser regarding the security once the connection gets made with the website. The fraudulent certificate manipulates the browser into thinking that the connection is secure. However, the hacker will be able to access all the data entered by the user before the transfer happens to the site.
  2. When the transmission control protocol(TCP) connection initiates between the user and the website, the hacker sends a fake version of four session keys to both parties. Though it looks like a secure connection, in reality, the hacker is observing the whole exchange between the user and the website.
  3. When the website sends the TLS certificate to the user, the hacker converts the HTTPS( more secure due to extra encryption layer) connection to an HTTP connection. The hacker sends the unencrypted version of the original website to the user while maintaining a secure connection with the legitimate website. This way, he can look over the user’s entire session with the website.

How To Prevent The Man In The Middle Attack?

Man in the middle attack can be very brutal to your website and the traffic if you do not take care of it. So, we must do everything in our means to secure the website from the MITM attack. Here are few ways that will help prevent this attack:

Avoid Public Networks

The website owner, admins, and others should avoid connecting to any public networks because they may not be secure. These networks may be under the control of a hacker that allows him to complete his first step of action, which is an interception.

VPN

Use virtual private networks(VPN) that help the admins connect securely to the websites from various locations.

HTTPS

Ensure that your websites, mainly the transaction and login pages, are secure with the HTTPS connection. This action will make sure that the data transmission between users and the website is safe.

Updated Web Browsers

Always remember to use the latest versions of web browsers like chrome, firefox, and so on. Outdated web browsers and websites are easy to crack.

IDS Installation

Use an intrusion detection system for your website that monitors any suspicious activity on your website. There are various WordPress security plugins like the Hide My WP that will help you with website protection. Hide My WP plugin has a firewall powered by an IDS engine that can block attacks like SQLXSSCSRF, read arbitrary files, and brute force attacks.

Hide My Wp security plugin

Some other efficient features of the Hide My WP security plugin are:

  • It lets you hide or rename the themes and plugins folders.
  • It can hide your WordPress.
  • It helps you change WordPress permalinks.
  • It will help you hide the login page of your website to prevent brute-force attacks. This feature will help you set up a login query and login key.
  • This plugin informs the user about:
  1. Value (How they hack you?)
  2. Page (Which plugin did they use?)
  3. Impact (How dangerous is that?)
  4. IP/ users (Where are they from?)
  • It will assist in hiding or renaming WP-admins.
  • It will disable direct access to PHP files and directory listing.
  • It will let you minify HTML and CSS.
  • It will allow you to change anything in your source code.
  • It has anti-spam included.

Recap

  • A hacker uses the man in the middle attack to intercept the data transmission session between a user and the website.
  • This attack results in identity theft, financial loss, and disclosing of sensitive information.
  • Man in the middle attack happens in two steps: interception and decryption.
  • We can prevent MITM attacks using only secure networks, IDS, updated web browsers, HTTPS websites, and VPNs.

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