Cybercriminals Use Man-in-the-Middle Attacks to Steal Login Information

Cybersecurity is one of the most discussed topics nowadays, and it is no wonder given the amount of sensitive data available online is increasing every day just as well as the number of hackers who seek to obtain it. However, despite more and more users being aware of how to protect their accounts some of us still experience identity theft, which might be carried out using the so-called Man-in-the-Middle attacks. In this blog post, we will explain how this hijacking technique can be used to hack passwords or steal other data without the victim even realizing it, as well as what to do if you do not want to fall victim to a Man-in-the-Middle attack.

How Man-in-the-Middle attacks work?

As the name suggests, during these attacks, the hacker becomes the man in the middle of two communicating users or devices. Some IT specialists call it digital eavesdropping. During these attacks cybercriminals can obtain various sensitive information, for example, chat messages or login information, by secretly taking a peek at the data the user's device transmits to a website or a server. The information still reaches the original destination, but the attackers could make a copy of it or even alter it before it gets delivered. In many cases, it is unsecured Internet connections, such as public Wi-Fi hotspots that create conditions for Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

What are the popular Man-in-the-Middle attack techniques?

IP spoofing

While using this method, the hackers obtain an IP address of some legitimate host before the attack. Later on, the IP address should be modified so it would still look trustworthy. Forging IP addresses allows cybercriminals to hide their identity and maintain the appearance of being reliable. This technique can be combined with other Man-in-the-Middle attack methods to spoof a website, hijack the victim's browsers, or even gain access to a network.

Email Hijacking

It is when hackers target email accounts of huge organizations, such as banks or other financial institutions. After hijacking targeted accounts, cybercriminals observe communication between the compromised email and the customers it sends information to. It not only makes it easier to find the perfect opportunity to strike but also to gain knowledge on how to make the scam look more convincing. Usually, the attackers send targeted victims emails with links to fake web pages and ask to log in. As a result, a fake password reset by Man in the Middle attack may occur.

Cookie Hijacking

As you log into various websites, your device makes a connection between the sites and itself. During this process, the web page may ask to place cookies that would make your browsing experience better, for example, cookies with location or login information. Naturally, obtaining cookies containing the user's login data would result in cybercriminals being able to hack passwords. There are a few ways attackers could obtain such cookies: by stealing them from your device, by hijacking the session (connection between the website and the computer), or by intercepting the information transmitted via the network.

Wi-Fi Eavesdropping

In this scenario, the cybercriminals may set up a public Wi-Fi hotspot with a similar name to an already existing connection in the hope some users will not notice any difference and connect to their hotspot instead. Unfortunately, if the user falls into the trap, the hackers behind the forged Wi-Fi connection might gain access to the device and hack passwords or gain any other sensitive information the user might submit while using the attacker's hotspot.

What can be done with Man-in-the-Middle attacks?

Man-in-the-Middle attacks make it possible to hack passwords, so many victims of such attacks experience identity theft. As you see, by gaining user's login credentials, the hackers can use the hijacked account for their needs. Besides, gaining access to user's email, social media profile, or any other account may allow the attackers to obtain valuable data too, for example, contact information of his friends, family, clients, and so on. Moreover, probably one of the worst things that could happen to the victims of Man-in-the-Middle attacks is losing business or personal funds (e.g., the cybercriminals could find an opportunity to trick the user into unknowingly sending them money while using the email hijacking technique we discussed above). For example, recently there were reports claiming researchers discovered a weakness cybercriminals could exploit with Man-in-the-Middle attacks to steal money from some Ledger hardware wallets used for storing cryptocurrencies.

How to prevent Man-in-the-Middle attacks?

First of all, computer security specialists advise staying away from public Wi-Fi connections, especially if you need to access sensitive accounts. Of course, to protect your privacy, you could use a VPN. It would not only hide your location but also encrypt any data traveling from your device to another website or a server. Another good idea is to visit sites using HTTPS instead of HTTP as the later connections might be not secure and using them could result in letting attackers hack passwords. Also, we would like to stress how vital it is to watch out for emails asking to provide login information if you do not want to fall for fictitious password reset by Man in the Middle attack. These incidents are also called phishing scams and if you wish to learn more about them, you should continue reading here.

To conclude, what you should do is never lose your guard and always take extra precautions if you have even the slightest reason to believe your privacy could be in danger.

August 23, 2018

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