Internet Safety While Traveling – Deeper Dive

A “man in the middle” or MIM attack is not particularly difficult to pull off, and it represents one of the biggest cyber security threats we face when we are traveling – or in fact, any time we consider using an unknown wireless network.

Here’s how it works: it’s rather easy to find software which will monitor or “sniff” network traffic.  It’s even easier to set up a wireless network – by example, like many business travelers these days, I carry a portable wireless hub in my purse. If the intent is to trick other people into using it, all that’s left is giving it a name which sounds legit like, “Marriott SecureWifi”. These can even be set up as far as 15 miles away from the wifi area.

As people try to connect to the criminally controlled network, the cybercriminal allows them to do so (using the same password as the real network, or no password at all). Then the cybercriminal becomes the “man in the middle” (MIM). Sample scenario (there’s a more detailed example of a MIM in my book):
1. You ask for the gmail page in your browser and type in your gmail password.
2. The MIM intercepts your request and provides you a fake gmail login page (which looks pixel by pixel exactly like the legitimate one, including “https/gmail” in the browser, which indicates that it is securely linked to the gmail server).
3. The MIM sends your password to Google.
4. Google assumes it’s talking to you, and opens your gmail.
5. The MIM passes the gmail back to you and continues passing requests and information back and forth until your session is done.

Everything you do during such a session is 100% visible to the cybercriminal, while neither you nor the gmail server suspect foul play. Best of all, the criminal now has your password and can log in to your account later to send spam, pilfer through your contacts and look for useful verification codes at his or her leisure.

The best defense against a MIM is to know your network (like your own home router) and have security software which alerts you when any new device is added to the network.

 

Best,

cj

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