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  • Writer's pictureRichard Blech

Man-in-the-Middle Breakdown

Hackers will expend significant resources and time in order to build credentials and gain access to a company’s sensitive data. From that point, they can execute a range of threats. Man-in-the-middle, or MITM, attacks are one of the many tools that can be used by nation-states for intelligence gathering or criminals for financial gain. These types of attacks can be very effective because without the right policies and cybersecurity solutions, they can be very difficult to protect against.


In MITM attacks, an interloper is positioned in the middle of an internal or external network, or some communication between two points of a network. These attacks affect almost any protocol that requires the identity verification of connection endpoints. MITM attacks can be implemented in cloud services, intranets, browsers, mobile apps, Wi-Fi networks, smart devices on IoT and IIoT networks and more. The attacker acts a silent intermediary between two endpoints, such as a user and an application, two APIs, etc., all while presenting the façade that a typical exchange of data is occurring.

MITM attacks appeal to hackers because they can use the attacks to gain a foothold in the IT infrastructure of a company. MITM attacks are often used in conjunction with other attacks, as way to penetrate the secure perimeter of a system to execute an advanced persistent threat. For example, once attackers have access to the system, they can maneuver around the system and harvest credentials with the desired administrative rights. Then they can launch a virus in the system to launch a ransomware attack or interfere with critical processes.

In many cases, organizations are completely unaware that they have been a victim of MITM attack until it is too late.

Examples of some of the conditions that can leave enterprises susceptible to MITM attacks include:

  • Application vulnerabilities

  • Flaws in enterprise network devices, like VPNs

  • The use of obsolete and poorly secured ciphers

  • The use of 4G security protocols and algorithms in 5G networks creating situations in which device capability info can be hijacked before security is applied to data being sent from an endpoint

  • Subpar SSL/TLS implementations

A successful MITM attack not only intercepts data, it also decrypts the encrypted data so that the attacker can read it and take action. This means that cybersecurity strategies should not only include policies and practices that can help prevent MITM intercepts, but also the encryption and cryptography solutions that can ensure the data is securely encrypted.


The methods used to execute MITM can be either passive or active. In a passive MITM attack, hackers will eavesdrop on the connection. In active MITM attacks, hackers will intercept a connection, alter the data or terminate the connection and establish a new connection to the intended endpoint.

  • ARP Spoofing. This technique manipulates the ARP vulnerability in which the authenticity of ARP requests and responses are not confirmed to send spoofed ARP messages to a LAN. This is done to have any traffic intended for the IP address of another host sent to the attacker instead.

  • SSL Stripping. An HTTPS connection is established between the hackers and the server, with an unsecured HTTP connection to the user so that data is transmitted in plain, unencrypted text.

  • DNS Spoofing. The DNS cache is undermined by unsolicited DNS responses to alter a website’s address so that unsuspecting users can be redirected to malicious servers. Attackers can also disguise IP addresses in this manner.

  • Wi-Fi Eavesdropping. By mimicking legitimate Wi-Fi- hotspots, attackers can see and control the data that moves through those spots.

  • Email Hijacking. Attackers can gain access to a user’s email account, monitor the account’s transactions and intercept communications by spoofing participants of the conversation.


There is a range of traditional protection measures typically used against MITM attacks, including PKI-based authentication certificates, HTTP Strict Transport Security, SSL/TLS and system and server configurations. However, according to CISA, modern MITM attacks are targeting the vulnerabilities in such infrastructures as well as encryption algorithms and protocols.

However, XSOC CORP provides state-of-the-art cryptographic solutions that can help safeguard against current cyber threats like MITM attacks. The XSOC Cryptosystem helps protect data from MITM attacks by creating a secure transmission channel by applying hardened encryption directly to data. This can help organizations secure communications between APIs, enterprise mobile apps and application servers, etc. XSOC encryption also enables continued variance in the encryption strength, from 512-bit to 51,200-bit strength, to constantly generate unique streaming encryption keys and ciphertext, so that hackers will not have a fixed attack surface to target.

To truly mitigate MITM attacks, organizations have to implement optimized end-to-end encryption as part of their cybersecurity strategy. One such solution, XSOC CORP’s network protocol, EBP, provides endpoint-to-endpoint encryption that does not rely on SSL/TLS. It provides its 512-bit symmetric encryption security without sacrificing speed and reliability and is able to prevent the interception of transmitted data.

Another way to mitigate MITM attacks is to render stolen credential useless to hackers. Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, can help effectively safeguard against stolen credentials. Even though hackers may acquire a username and password, they would still have to have the next two authentication factors, which could be a single-use password token and facial recognition, for example. XSOC Corp makes it even easier to implement 3FA, as the feature is native to the XSOC cryptosystem cipher core, making it part of the cryptographic keying process.

The success of MITM attacks also hinges on the circumvention of mutual authentication, or when hackers can successfully imitate each endpoint. XSOC provides a secure transit mechanism with the SOCKET cryptographic key exchange for LAN to ensure that that only the intended recipient is able to reassemble the keys needed to decrypt data. XSOC’s WAN-SOCKET does the same to thwart eavesdropping on the global internet.

Companies have to be proactive in guarding their systems from modern cyberattacks, and this entails protecting their data. To prevent the spread of MITM attacks, a multilayered cybersecurity system that features hardcore encryption security is necessary. At XSOC CORP, we can help you strengthen your company’s cybersecurity and help you remain vigilant against the increasing global threat of cyberattacks.


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