Decoding Man-In-The-Middle Cyber Attacks

A Man-In-The-Middle (MITM cyber-attack) refers to a cyber-criminal intercepting a digital interaction or exchange between individuals, systems or an individual and a system.

During a MITM incident, a cyber-criminal could either eavesdrop on an interaction or pretend to be a genuine participant in the exchange. MITM cyber-attacks leverage various strategies to manipulate targets, but the goal of these incidents is largely the same. To retrieve confidential data (eg bank details or login credentials) and use it to commit additional crimes, such as identity theft or fraudulent transfers. It’s vital for both businesses and individuals to take steps to safeguard their operations and employees against MITM incidents.

MITM Cyber-attacks Explained


A MITM incident typically occurs in two phases. These phases include interception and decryption:

  • During the interception phase, a cyber-criminal will attempt to gain access to their target’s technology—usually via a poorly secured Wi-Fi router or fake hotspot—and interfere with the victim’s network connection. From there, the cyber-criminal will be able to insert themselves between any digital interactions or exchanges their target may have, thus establishing themselves as the “man in the middle.” As a result, the cyber-criminal will have the ability to collect any confidential data shared during their target’s interactions or exchanges (unbeknownst to the victim).
  • During the decryption phase, the cyber-criminal will decode any data they collected from their target, therefore making this information intelligible and allowing it to be utilised to commit further nefarious acts.

A variety of large-scale MITM incidents have occurred in recent years.


In 2015, IT experts discovered that a malicious program known as Superfish had been pre-installed on technology company Lenovo’s devices since 2014, affecting numerous individuals. This program permitted cyber-criminals to interfere with victims’ secure browsing sessions, direct them to fraudulent websites and even place harmful advertisements within encrypted domains.

In 2017, several financial institutions identified security vulnerabilities within their mobile banking applications that had contributed to MITM incidents among customers with iOS and Android phones. These vulnerabilities failed to uphold proper online hostname verification techniques, allowing cyber-criminals to bypass internet security protocols and conduct MITM cyber-attacks.

Altogether, these real-world examples highlight how crucial it is for businesses to implement effective measures aimed at preventing MITM cyber-attacks.

To help avoid and minimise the impact of MITM incidents, businesses should consider utilising these measures:


  • Train employees on safe internet browsing measures, including how to ensure a secure connection and detect potentially fraudulent websites.
  • Establish a virtual private connection (VPN) for employees to use for all work-related internet browsing. Prohibit employees from utilising public Wi-Fi connections.
  • Require employees to create complex and unique account passwords, as well as update these passwords on a routine basis.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication capabilities on all workplace technology. Only provide employees with access to sensitive data if they need it for their specific job duties.
  • Encrypt sensitive company data. Conduct frequent data backups of any critical information in a safe and secure location.
  • Equip workplace technology with sufficient security software (eg antivirus programs, firewalls and endpoint detection tools). Update this software as needed to ensure effectiveness.
  • Keep workplace networks properly segmented to help contain potential MITM cyber-attacks and limit associated damages.
  • Purchase adequate cyber-insurance for protection against losses that may result from MITM cyber-attacks. Consult a trusted insurance professional to discuss specific coverage needs.

As a whole, it’s evident that MITM incidents pose significant cyber-security threats for all businesses.

Yet, by having a better understanding of this cyber-attack method and implementing sufficient prevention measures, businesses can help keep MITM risks at bay.