The Basics Of A Man-In-The-Middle Network Security Attack

While you may not have heard the term man-in-the-middle attack, you will recognize how this type of network security attack can easily be carried out under the right conditions.

Unfortunately, a lot of websites and emails are not using encryption through the use of Public Key Infrastructure frameworks and the use of digital certificates. Through SSL certificates or TLS certificates it is possible to prevent these types of attacks on websites. Comodo also offers Personal Authentication Certificates or Clients Certificates that can do the same for emails, preventing anyone from altering, changing or in any way modifying emails that are digitally signed an encrypted by the sender.

The Man in the Middle

The man-in-the-middle network security attack is actually just what it sounds like. The sender of the information transmits a message through the internet as email or through some type of form on a website. If this information is not encrypted, it is literally there for anyone to read.

Think of this like sending a postcard or a flyer through the mail. It is not protected or shielded so it can be read by anyone. If someone saw the message and changed it to ask a question or to find out information and then sent it on to the intended recipient, the recipient would naturally think that is the question or the request of the sender.

He or she would not realize that the message had been altered, changed or that parts had been added or deleted. Then, when the respondent sent the reply, that same middle person could read that response, make changes and allow it to go back to the original sender.

In this way, both parties assume they are having a conversation with each other. Instead, the entire process is being monitored and even controlled by the man-in-the-middle. This could result in confidential information being shared that would give the hacker access to the system, including information needed to guess passwords or other private information.

It is also possible for a man-in-the-middle network security attack to originate with the hacker assuming the identity of the receiver. In this case, the man-in-the-middle simply intercepts the email and responds without involving the real receiver at all.

The sender assumes the emails are getting through and, in fact, in the return email it appears as if it is coming from the expected email address. This can result in serious network security attack concerns for businesses and individuals if the man-in-the-middle is effective in their role in phishing.

Protecting Your Network

One very easy way to prevent the risk of the man-in-the-middle network security attack is to use Client certs or Personal Authentication Certificates. These are certificates that uniquely bind to a public key and a private key to encrypt and digitally sign emails.

By encrypting the email with the recipient's public key, only the recipient's private key can decrypt the message. The private key is kept on the device or browser used by the recipient, and it requires a unique password and login to access.

In this way, even if there is a man-in-the-middle attack there is no legible information. It is like sending the message on a postcard in a secret code known only to the sender and the receiver and no one else.

These Personal Authentication Certificates or Client certificates are very similar in providing encryption as used with data transmitted through websites. This SSL and TLS technology also prevents the reading of data by any devices without the corresponding private key. The is because the certificate also has to match the key and be from a trusted source.

Digital signatures are yet another layer of protection against the man-in-the-middle attack. By digitally signing the email and attachments a mathematical hash is also created with the encryption. This hash message is unique to the original email and, when received it is compared to the decrypted message by the email client or device. If the two match, the message was not tampered with or changed during transmission. If it doesn't match a warning is sent that the message was altered.

There are several different options to prevent any type of network security attack, including the man-in-the-middle attack. Talk to our staff at Comodo to discuss the best options in finding SSL/TLS and Public Key Infrastructure products to protect your data.

Give us a call today at +1 888 266 6361 or visit us online at There are lots of great articles in our resource section that are prefect for businesses concerned about online security.

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