Man In The Middle

IT Security Column’s first post will bring to you one of the popular attack in IT security which is the Man in the Middle (often abbreviated MITM). Before going into the detailed definition of this attack, let me tell you why MITM?

Money. Most the unethical hacking around that we heard of are going for money. Hackers can benefit from MITM method by stealing user’s credential and then use them to perform online banking transactions. On the other side, some hackers uses this method to steal confidential information. That is why, MITM can be really dangerous to users who are not completely aware of this sort of attack.

What is MITM? MITM is a form of attack where there is another entity stood in the middle between two communicating parties and steals information in between. MITM usually happened over the network and it can be very effective if the user is not aware of it. MITM though is not an old method to hack but it is still yet a popular method to steal sensitive and confidential informations.

Now, where can this attack happen. One of the easiest place to perform this attack is of course the place where public WIFI is being offered. This is because the place that host the public WIFI are not protected at all and any type of people can just gain access to it as long as the person is within the networking area. Apart from public WIFI area, MITM can also happen in the form of Web Phishing. Web Phishing is a duplicate GUI of the original website where hackers use the same GUI to fool the careless internet users. Web Phishing is capable of stealing user credentials such as username and password easily if the victim is successfully trapped. However, Web Phishing can be easily identified by observing the URL of the website.

What are the defenses against MITM?

  • Public Key Infrastructure can come into the IT world and battle against MITM.
  • Strong mutual authentication such as secret keys which are high information entropy can thus provide better security.
  • For Web Phishing, always monitor the URL of the website that the user is surfing.
  • Never do important transactions using public WIFI.

MITM as an overall, is still an avoidable attack in IT security as long as both communicating party are mutually authenticated. However, users must always be aware when performing any banking transactions or accessing sensitive data as MITM can really steal the important information to the users. A piece of advice from me which is to stay alert always when you are using the internet.

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About Alan Tay

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