Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MITM)

What Is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MITM)?

In cryptocurrency or computer security, a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) attack is a general term for a cyberattack where a perpetrator positions himself in a conversation between two parties either to secretly eavesdrop, intercept communication, or modify traffic traveling between the two.

The two parties who believe that they are directly communicating with each other are communicating or sharing information with a third party, making it appear as if a normal exchange of information is underway.

The perpetrator must be able to intercept all relevant messages passing between the two victims and inject new ones.

How They Work

In most cases, it is easy for an attacker to execute a MITM attack, for example, by exploiting an unencrypted WIFI connection to place themselves as a middleman in a conversation.

MITM attacks are used tactically to achieve various malicious goals, such as stealing login credentials or personal information like a private key, spying on the victim, sabotaging communications, or corrupting data.

Challenges in MITM Attack Detection

Encryption can help protect against MITM attacks.

However, successful attackers may reroute traffic to phishing sites designed to look legitimate or pass on the traffic to its intended destination once harvested or recorded, making detecting such attacks incredibly difficult.

Preventive Role of TLS

In most cases, MITM attacks attempt to avoid mutual authentication.

They can only succeed when the perpetrator successfully impersonates each endpoint sufficiently to make them believe they communicate directly.

Most cryptographic protocols utilize endpoint authentication to prevent MITM attacks.