19 Keys To Detecting And Preventing Man-In-The-Middle Attacks – Forbes –

Team Wabbi

March 7, 2024

In a man-in-the-middle attack, a message intended for a specific receiver is secretly intercepted by a third party. This allows the attacker to access confidential information (hence the alternate name of “eavesdropping attack”), impersonate one of the parties to the message or even alter the message itself.

Successfully countering MITM attacks has never been a simple effort, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult as hackers turn ever-evolving and expanding technologies to nefarious ends. Below, 19 members of Forbes Technology Council share expert strategies organizations should review and implement to better protect themselves and their stakeholders from MITM attacks.

1. Establish Public Key Infrastructure

The most effective strategy is the implementation of strong public key infrastructure combined with continuous network monitoring. PKI ensures secure and authenticated communications through robust encryption, while constant network monitoring helps in detecting anomalies indicative of MITM attacks. This dual approach is vital for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of data in transit.  Boris Berat, Carna Health

MITM attacks exemplify application security posture management’s role in safeguarding the entire security life cycle. By identifying, implementing and managing application-specific security controls based on an application’s risk profile and pairing that with application data, ASPM can proactively and reactively bolster overall security health.  Brittany Greenfield, Wabbi

3. Follow Leading Encryption Protocols

Implement robust encryption protocols, including HTTPS. This, combined with regularly monitoring network traffic, can help organizations detect and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, enhancing security in today’s environment.  Jared Thau, Gameverse Interactive

4. Create ‘Honeypots’

Creating deceptive entry points, or “honeypots,” can lure attackers. This can help security teams detect attackers’ presence and tactics and strengthen an organization’s overall security defenses.  Avani Desai, Schellman

5. Force Secure Connections When Possible

The key to prevention is forcing HTTPS/TLS connections whenever possible, along with leveraging additional advanced capabilities such as certificate pinning, HTTP strict transport security and perfect forward secrecy. Ensure you’re using a secure connection (such as a VPN or something similar) and a secure DNS provider. To improve detection of MITM attacks, the ability to inspect traffic—particularly encrypted traffic—is critical.  Saša Zdjelar, Crosspoint Capital Partners

6. Continuously Monitor Your Network

An essential strategy for detecting and preventing man-in-the-middle attacks is continuous network monitoring with intrusion detection systems. Analyzing traffic for anomalies and unauthorized devices enables timely responses, while following robust encryption protocols, such as TLS, ensures the authentication of communication channels, which is crucial to detecting and preventing MITM attacks in today’s modern security landscape.  Michael Ruppe, adesso Schweiz AG

7. Implement End-To-End Encryption

Implementing strong end-to-end encryption is an essential strategy for detecting and preventing man-in-the-middle attacks. This ensures that communication between parties remains secure and inaccessible to potential attackers. Regularly updating encryption protocols and consistently maintaining strict access controls further fortifies defenses against such threats.  Mark Vena, SmartTech Research

8. Ensure Visibility Into All Hybrid Cloud Traffic

To prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, organizations must have clear text visibility into all hybrid cloud traffic, including encrypted traffic, where the bulk of malware lives. While encryption was created to protect sensitive data, it has become a perfect hiding place for threat actors to laterally traverse undetected. Only with plaintext visibility into traffic can a criminal be stopped. Shane Buckley, Gigamon

9. Implement Certificate Pinning

One effective strategy is certificate pinning. It involves hardcoding trusted digital certificates within your application, so even if an attacker tries to spoof a certificate, the application will detect the discrepancy and block the connection. This adds an extra layer of security, making it harder for attackers to execute man-in-the-middle attacks.  Favour Femi-Oyewole, Access Bank PLC

10. Keep An Eye Out For Unusual Changes And Events

Keep an eye out for odd changes in security certificates, check for any unexpected delays or rerouting in your data packets, and scrutinize your network traffic for anything out of the ordinary that might suggest someone’s trying to intercept your data. Use secure protocols such as TLS, SSL and HTTPS. Beef up your login processes and consistently update patches and protocols.  Hitesh Bhardwaj, Cloud4C

11. Adopt A Zero-Trust Framework

Organizations must adopt a “never trust, always verify,” or zero-trust, approach. Assuming a bad actor is already in the system can prevent the wrong person from gaining access. A zero-trust strategy secures high-value assets via multiple layers of security and ensures key infrastructures are encrypted and set up with appropriate backup and disaster recovery processes. Anudeep Parhar, Entrust

12. Ensure A Secure Access Solution And Training

A zero-trust framework is a key strategy. It verifies every user and device, inside or outside the organization’s boundaries. Implementing a secure access solution is a critical component of the strategy, as is cybersecurity training. However, training alone is not sufficient, as hackers can still exploit human error to perform MITM attacks.  Prashant Ketkar, Parallels (part of Alludo)

13. Avoid Proxies That Break The SSL/TLS Connection

Do not use proxies that break the SSL/TLS connection and send certificate error messages to users. Users will come to view SSL messages as normal, so when an attacker hijacks them, they will not notice. However, if the proxy never generates these messages and users are trained, when a real hijacking occurs, the user will see the message and avoid clicking on it, since they are not used to seeing it.  Eric Cole, Secure Anchor Consulting

14. Teach Employees To Recognize Threats

Mitigating man-in-the-middle attacks demands user vigilance and IT’s adherence to best practices, including tool standardization and employing strong encryption. Key indicators include certificate warnings, redirects to suspicious URLs and unwarranted download prompts. Crucially, training employees to recognize and steer clear of these threats significantly enhances defenses against MITM attacks.  Tim Liu, Hillstone Networks

15. Have The Server And Client Provide Mutual Authentication

While emerging technologies such as quantum cryptography have shown immense promise, the consistent, measurable results of their practical application are yet to be seen. One essential, time-tested strategy is to have the server and the client perform mutual authentication before sharing data. If either the server’s or the client’s identity cannot be established, the session will end, preventing MITM attacks.  Preeti Shukla, JustFund

16. Deploy Digital Signatures

Deploying digital signatures is a pivotal strategy for detecting and preventing man-in-the-middle attacks. Digital signatures provide a cryptographic mechanism to verify the authenticity and integrity of transmitted data. By digitally signing messages or documents, organizations can ensure that the sender’s identity is verified and that the content remains unaltered during transit. Shelli Brunswick, SB Global LLC

17. Use Phishing-Resistant Authentication Methods

Generative AI is making MITM attacks more prevalent because it’s now easier to trick unsuspecting users into a phishing dragnet. Enterprises must urgently move toward phishing-resistant authentication, such as passkeys, to ensure such attacks fail. Enterprises must also implement zero-standing access and dynamic permissions to prevent catastrophe in case a MITM attack results in an identity compromise. Atul Tulshibagwale, SGNL.ai

18. Enforce MFA

Multifactor authentication is essential as a first line of defense against man-in-the-middle attacks and other common kinds of fraud. That might sound obvious to CTOs, but we’ve seen significant, preventable intrusions recently that MFA could have prevented: For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s X account was taken over, and a hack of 23andMe exposed the data of 7 million customers.  Christophe Van de Weyer, Telesign

19. Adopt A Blended Strategy

Reliance on a single strategy is unlikely to prove an optimal approach. A blended strategy leveraging multifactor authentication, zero-trust architectures, encryption and continuous cybersecurity monitoring is required. A multilayered approach is even more important now, as work-from-home and flex-working models are increasing deperimeterization and eroding the protection offered by corporate networks.  Mark Brown, British Standards Institution (BSI)

 

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MITM attacks exemplify application security posture management’s role in safeguarding the entire security life cycle. By identifying, implementing and managing application-specific security controls based on an application’s risk profile and pairing that with application data, ASPM can proactively and reactively bolster overall security health”

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