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Man in the Middle Attack

Definition: A Man in the Middle Attack (MITM) is a form of cyber eavesdropping where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other. The attacker can intercept, send and receive data meant for someone else, all without the knowledge of the legitimate communicators.

In the context of cyber security, a Man in the Middle Attack poses a significant threat because it can lead to the capture of sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal data, or financial details. Attackers can use various methods to carry out MITM attacks, including IP spoofing, DNS spoofing, and using malicious software. A Man in the Middle Attack can occur on unsecured or poorly secured networks, such as public Wi-Fi networks, making the encryption of data in transit an essential safeguard.

Guarding against MITM attacks often involves endpoint security measures, encrypted connections (such as SSL/TLS), strong authentication mechanisms, and regularly updating software to address vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

Key Characteristics:

  • Interception of Communication: The attacker places themselves between the communicating users to capture and relay messages.
  • Potential for Data Exposure: Sensitive information may be exposed or stolen during the interception process.
  • Erosion of Trust: This attack exploits the trust between the communicating parties, often without their knowledge.
  • Active Attack: Unlike passive eavesdropping, MITM attacks require the attacker to actively intercept communications.


  • Real-World Example: An attacker intercepts traffic between a user’s device and a banking website, capturing login details when the user attempts to authenticate.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: In an unprotected Wi-Fi network, a cybercriminal uses an MITM attack to intercept and alter the contents of an email being sent between two colleagues, injecting malicious links.

Related Terms:

  • Eavesdropping: A passive attack where an unauthorized person listens in on a conversation or message without the users’ knowledge.
  • IP Spoofing: A technique that can facilitate MITM attacks whereby the attacker deceives the network about their IP address.
  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer): A protocol that establishes encrypted links between a web server and a browser, ensuring that all data passed between them remains private. It’s an essential technology for securing internet connections and preventing eavesdropping.
  • TLS (Transport Layer Security): The successor to SSL, TLS is a cryptographic protocol designed to provide secure communication over a computer network. It enhances security through various updates and is widely used for web browsers, email, messaging, and VoIP. TLS is instrumental in preventing eavesdropping and MITM attacks.

Learn better by watching a video? Here is a YouTube video explaining the concept using the Superfish software as a prime example.

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Inside you will find a description of the most common web vulnerabilities.

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