Man In The Middle Attacks At Your Local Coffee Shop

With the internet all around us now there are times when we take technology like this for granted. For example, you will tend to find stores or restaurants that allow internet access on their networks. If they do not then there is a good chance that you will try to find somewhere else to go to. Well maybe not if their food is really good. At that point you might just try to make due. But if you are traveling around the city with either a laptop, tablet, or powerful smart phone then you want to be able to use it. Sure, you might have a data plan to use your device but many people do not and they do not want the device to just languish there while other people around them are able to surf the web.

Man In The Middle Attacks At Your Local Coffee Shop

But sometimes not being able to get what you want is a good thing. Not getting what you want will help you avoid unforeseen trouble. And the trouble that you can run across when it comes to using WIFI at your favorite restaurant or book store is that you can become a victim of a man in the middle attack.

What is a man in the middle attack?

A man in the middle attack is an attack that goes after a known weakness in wireless networks. When you are using the internet, the data travels back and forth between the computer that you are using and the wireless router. That data is then sent to the initial person or server that you were sending it to. It is all pretty routine. But there are ways for a black hat hacker to be able to intercept this data without you knowing. They will take the data, copy it, and then send it on its way like it never happened. They then take the data and use it for their own nefarious purposes.

There are several ways that you can protect yourself from a man in the middle attack. Your first line of defense is to make sure that you are careful with what networks you log into. Make sure that you need a password to get into the network. You do not want someone who is not in the restaurant to be able to get in the network and snoop. Also when you visit sensitive web sites on these networks, make sure that you use the “https” designation when on the sites. This means that you are using an encrypted version of the log in.

Man in the middle attacks can be dangerous but they are also easily avoidable.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. yes, I was referring to that small window of opportunity. There is no point to pre-share the keys. Users just will not do that, I would not do that. Nobody will associate a hangout spot with its digital keys. Some businesses do not even bother to put a password for their wireless encryption protocol because it is simply impractical.

    Digging deeper, SSL sessions can also be hijacked. It is not an easy thing to do but possible. In pure theory, there is no absolute defence against MITM. Even if you have a static IP address allocation, it is still possible to hack the system. You can spoof both the IP and the MAC address, which would then result (again) in a race condition.

  2. Well I think that we can stop MITM on the network level by restricting assigned MAC address, so if attacker will change his MAC to spoof the traffic he will be banned.
    Encryption is a good way to protect the entire wireless network.

  3. That is not 100% true.

    You cannot stop a Man-In-The-Middle attack by using encryption. You got that wrong. It lowers the chance but a MITM attack can still happen because there is a race condition when the device is connecting.

    You cannot eliminate this attack by merely using encryption

    • I’m guessing that you are referring to that small window of opportunity at the point of key exchange? If so, then yes, there is a chance that it could be taken… unless the keys have already been shared in advance.

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