What Are Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks? How Are These Different from Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks?

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Cybersecurity threats are a growing concern, with two of the most commonly discussed being Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks and Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks. For the development of practical cyber defence strategies against these attacks, it is essential to understand the differences between them. 

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This blog post will look at how MITM attacks and DoS attacks operate, the consequences of each one, mitigation strategies to be used, and the right cybersecurity course that can be taken up to learn more!

How do MITM attacks work?

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are carried out by disrupting communication between two parties, such as a client and a server, and by posing as a "man in the middle." The attacker can then monitor, manipulate and even steal the sensitive data transferred between the two parties. MITM attacks can be carried out in several ways, including eavesdropping on an unsecured Wi-Fi network or using malware that infects a device and stops its communications.

Examples of MITM attacks 

Some common examples of MITM attacks include: 

  1. Credential theft: An attacker can hijack credentials such as usernames and passwords by impersonating a legitimate website and tricking users into entering their credentials on a fake login page. 
  2. Interception of financial transactions: An attacker can intercept and process financial transactions, such as bank transfers or credit card purchases, and steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers or bank account information. 
  3. Session hijacking: An attacker can hijack an established session between a user and a server and use the stolen session to access the user's information and perform unauthorised actions on behalf of the user.

Consequences of MITM attacks 

The consequences of MITM attacks can be severe and far-reaching. Victims may suffer financial loss, identity theft, reputational damage, and other adverse consequences. For businesses and organisations, MITM attacks can result in security breaches, loss of intellectual property rights, regulatory fines, and legal liability.

Mitigation strategies to avoid MITM attacks 

Individuals and organisations can implement a variety of mitigation strategies to prevent MITM attacks, including 

  1. Implement two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data. 
  2. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks or use a VPN (virtual private network) to protect your communications. 
  3. Update software and firmware regularly to avoid vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. 
  4. Train employees and users to recognize and avoid phishing scams and other manipulation techniques that can lead to such attacks.

How do DoS attacks work?

A denial-of-service (DoS) attack is a cyberattack in which an attacker attempts to block a website, service, or network from its intended users by overwhelming them with traffic or exploiting a system vulnerability. A DoS attack aims to prevent legitimate users from accessing a targeted resource by making it unavailable.

Examples of DoS attacks

  1. DDoS Attack: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are one of the most common types of DoS attacks. In a DDoS attack, many malware-infected computers are used to flood a website or server with traffic that overwhelms it and renders it unusable. 
  2. Botnets: A botnet is a network of compromised computers called "robots" controlled by a remote attacker. An attacker can use these bots for DDoS attacks, among other things. 
  3. Application-level attacks: These attacks exploit vulnerabilities in specific applications, such as web servers or databases. An attacker sends a large number of requests to the application, causing it to crash or stop responding.

Consequences of DoS attack

DoS attacks can have serious consequences for businesses and individuals, such as lost revenue, reputational damage, legal and regulatory violations, and financial penalties. To protect against them, businesses and individuals should use firewalls, intrusion detection systems and regularly update software and security protocols.

Mitigation strategies to avoid DoS attack

Several mitigation strategies can be used to prevent DoS attacks:

  1. Firewalls are network security systems that help prevent unauthorised traffic and protect against DoS attacks.
  2. Enable traffic throttling on the servers to limit the number of requests the server can accept, which can prevent the server from becoming overloaded.
  3. Anti-DDoS services can help prevent and mitigate DDoS attacks by filtering traffic and blocking malicious traffic.
  4. Regularly updating your software and security protocols can help prevent vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.

Difference between MITM and DoS attacks?

MITM Attacks DoS Attacks
Intercepting and potentially altering communications Making websites, services, or networks unavailable
The attacker positions themselves in between two parties Overwhelming the target with high traffic or exploiting vulnerabilities
ARP spoofing, DNS spoofing, or SSL stripping are common techniques Ping Floods, SYN Floods, and UDP Floods are common techniques
The attacker aims to steal sensitive information or gain unauthorised access The attacker may be motivated by political, ideological, or financial gain
MITM attacks are often designed to be stealthy and may not be immediately noticeable DoS attacks are more overt and immediately noticeable
Hackers often carry out MITM attacks Hacktivists or cybercriminals may carry out DoS attacks
The effects of MITM attacks are usually not immediately noticeable The effects of DoS attacks are immediately noticeable
MITM attacks may be used for identity theft, fraud, or espionage DoS attacks may be used for extortion or as a form of protest
Protection against MITM attacks involves implementing secure communication protocols and using encryption Protection against DoS attacks involves implementing firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and anti-DDoS services

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks and Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks are two different types of cyber-attacks, each with its characteristics and motivations. Organisations must take steps to protect against both attacks to ensure the security and availability of their systems and data.

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