Man-in-the-middle attacks are on the rise

As a Managed Services provider, we are at the coal face of tech. Our experience overseeing the IT environments of our customers gives us many insights into what is happening out there.

One of the trends that we are seeing is a large increase in man-in-the-middle attacks. We’re here to help you be aware of them and take steps to protect your systems from these cyber threats.

What is a man-in-the-middle attack?

A man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) is a type of cyber attack where an attacker intercepts communication between two parties, such as you and a server. The attacker intercepts the communication and can read, modify, or even inject new information into it. The parties involved in the communication are often unaware that it has been intercepted.

How do man-in-the-middle attacks happen?

A man-in-the-middle attack can happen in several ways. One common method is through the use of public WiFi networks. Attackers can set up a fake WiFi hotspot that appears legitimate and lure unsuspecting users into connecting to it. Once connected, the attacker can intercept the user’s internet traffic and gain access to sensitive information such as login credentials.

Another way man-in-the-middle attacks can happen is through phishing scams. Attackers can send fake emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or an e-commerce site. The message will often contain a link that, when clicked, will take the user to a fake website designed to steal their login credentials or other sensitive information.

Another way we have seen is through the use of weak passwords that can be easily guessed. Once the attacker has access to a system they can easily pose as a legitimate user.

An example of an MITM attack

Here’s one example we have heard about:

The man-in-the-middle attacker gained access to an email system and sent out emails to clients advising them that the company’s bank account details had changed, and giving the attacker’s bank account as the new details. By the time the company knew what had happened, clients had paid about $100,000 to the attacker’s account.

How you can protect against man-in-the-middle attacks

There are several steps that you can take to protect against MITM attacks:

  1. Use a virtual private network (VPN) – A VPN encrypts all internet traffic and tunnels it through a secure server. This makes it difficult for attackers to intercept and read the traffic. Setting up a VPN involves installing some software on your device and connecting to a VPN service provider. Adaptive Computer Services can advise on this and get you up and running.
  2. Use HTTPS on your website and web applications. HTTPS (the S stands for Secure) encrypts communication between the client and the server, making it more difficult for attackers to intercept the traffic. You should ensure that your website and web applications use SSL certificates to create secure HTTPS connections.
  3. Educate employees. Employees should be trained to recognise phishing scams and other social engineering tactics used by attackers. They should also be aware of the risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks and should avoid using them when possible.
  4. Enforce strong passwords:
    • The old word plus a few numbers plus an exclamation mark doesn’t cut it anymore.
    • Passwords should be a combination of upper- and lower-case letters that don’t form a word plus numbers and symbols and should generally be at least 8 characters long.
    • Passwords should not be used in more than one place.
    • If you find this all a bit overwhelming, then consider using a password manager. A password manager can store all your passwords and fill them in when needed. You only need to remember one strong password to access them. Examples of good password managers are Roboform, LastPass and Dashlane.
  5. Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to login credentials. It requires the user to provide a second form of identification, such as a code sent to their phone, in addition to their password. Many modern password managers can act as authenticators themselves, so you don’t even need your phone.
  6. Keep software up to date – SMEs should ensure that all software, including operating systems and applications, are kept up to date with the latest security patches.

Man-in-the-middle attacks are a growing threat to you and your business. However, by taking steps to protect your systems, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these attacks. It’s essential that you take these cyber threats seriously and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

Adaptive Computer Services can help you with all aspects of your IT security. We can set up VPNs and security certificates, provide employee education packages, state-of-the-art security and malware systems, and software maintenance programs.