As an entrepreneur, you must tackle countless unexpected challenges—from supply chain disruptions to sudden competitor moves—that will constantly test your resilience. With the integration of technology, these unforeseen obstacles have multiplied. As a result, you now need to be prepared for potential malware threats, phishing attacks, and network security issues, too.
As long as you are aware of the threats, safeguarding your business with the necessary preventative measures is easier. However, some of these cyber troubles are lesser known and, therefore, may leave business owners unprepared to tackle them.
A man-in-the-middle attack is one such alarmingly elusive and less-spoken-about risk that could severely compromise your business security. But what exactly does it involve, and how can it threaten your business? Most importantly, what can you do to prevent its deceptive advances? In this article, you will find all the answers.
Understanding Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
Person-in-the-middle or man-in-the-middle is a threat where a malicious individual intercepts communication between two parties without their knowledge. This allows cybercriminals to secretly listen into conversations, alter messages, steal confidential information, and carry out a variety of other acts that may jeopardize the privacy and safety of your business and stakeholders.
Man-in-the-middle attacks cost companies $2.4 billion each year. But how do they work?
It all begins with the perpetrators infiltrating a network. They can, for instance, hack into your IT systems or exploit vulnerabilities in weak passwords.
Once they infiltrate, they silently wait and watch until someone initiates communication. This is when cybercriminals intercept and decrypt the message, which they will change or manipulate for their advantage. However, the two parties involved—the message sender and receiver—will hardly suspect anything since often there will be little to no sign of an infiltration until much later when the threat escalates into damaging consequences.
Man-in-the-middle attacks are subtle and extremely difficult to detect. Here are a few examples of what they could do:
- Hijack your business emails and insert deceptive links and attachments into messages sent to your customers, which can result in malware downloads.
- Redirect traffic from an authentic website to a fraudulent one. It could, for example, involve an imposter email mimicking your bank, which gets you to log into your online bank account on a spoofed website. This tactic is designed to steal your account passwords.
- Eavesdrop on a Wi-Fi network to monitor and steal confidential data that could compromise your business’s competitive edge.
- Infiltrate your browser and listen to web traffic.
Criminals could deploy a variety of techniques in a man-in-the-middle attack. These can range from DNS spoofing and session hijacking to IP spoofing, Wi-Fi eavesdropping, and SSL stripping.
But what do these malicious individuals want? They are primarily after confidential data such as online account passwords and credit card information. The ultimate goal is almost always financial gains.
For example, perpetrators can log into your business bank account and steal money after gaining access to your login credentials. Or, they might steal your customer databases and sell them on the dark web. The possibilities of monetizing sensitive business data are simply limitless.
How Can You Prevent Man-in-the-Middle Threats?
Extra caution and a proactive approach are critical for identifying and avoiding these attacks.
Here are specific steps for you to adopt:
1. Be wary of unusual communications
Business email compromise is a common outcome of a man-in-the-middle attack. So, if you receive an unusual email from a customer, employee, vendor, bank, or any other stakeholder you regularly liaise with, treading with care is essential.
Are there mistakes that seem atypical of the individual or organization who has sent the message? Have they used greetings that come across as strange? If so, scrutinize the purpose of the communication. Does it require you to take action that may compromise your business’s security in some way?
For example, does the email urge you to use a link to log into an account or complete a form? Is it asking you to transfer money? Or is it seeking confidential business data? Whatever the request, never follow through without verifying its authenticity.
Directly contact the sender of the message via phone to verify its original source. If the email contains a phone number, check it on PhoneHistory to identify whom it belongs to.
2. Strengthen your security infrastructure
Analyzing network traffic, encrypting data, setting up firewalls, and implementing network segmentation while adopting a zero-trust network security architecture is critical for your business to avoid a man-in-the-middle threat.
Other steps to bolster security include using virtual private networks, adopting strong passwords, deploying multi-factor authentication, and installing malware protection.
3. Build awareness
Human error is one of the primary contributors to cyber vulnerabilities. So, awareness building should be an important part of your IT security strategy to ensure all key stakeholders are prepared to tackle a threat.
Start by training your employees to help them identify potential attacks. Slow connections, repeated disconnections, and redirects are some of the common signs that could warn them of a man-in-the-middle attack.
Also, explain why it is crucial to strengthen data safety by avoiding unsecured Wi-Fi connections, double-checking email and website addresses, following password best practices, and verifying SSL certificates.
Extend these awareness programs to your customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, too.
4. Enforce robust security policies
Security frameworks, protocols, and standard operating procedures help guide the behavior of your entire organization to avoid threats and mitigate damage in the event of an attack.
Remember, the majority of your employees likely come from non-IT backgrounds. So, having detailed guidelines on how they should work to minimize cyberattacks is imperative. Also, set up a clear allocation of responsibilities to hold respective individuals accountable and outline the repercussions of failure to comply.
5. Monitor continuously
Setting up an effective monitoring mechanism is another aspect to consider. This should not be limited to IT security. Auditing operational activities, regularly reviewing bank accounts for unusual transactions, and similar checks also play a pivotal role in safeguarding your enterprise.
To Wrap Up
Man-in-the-middle attacks can pose substantial damage to a business. By infiltrating communications between your company and employees, customers, vendors, and other key stakeholders, malicious actors can compromise the safety of all or any of the parties involved. The result for your business could be identity theft, financial loss, and reputational damage.
So, take proactive action today to prevent these deceptive threats. Watch out for unusual communications and strengthen your security barriers. Build awareness among your stakeholders, too, to minimize human error. Finally, implement security policies and adopt a monitoring mechanism to identify and avoid potential attacks.