The technology known as Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) aims to increase the security of network traffic. An SSL-enabled protocol, like HTTPS, will provide data encryption and integrity safeguards as well as server identity authentication. Most modern online browsing is done with SSL-protected HTTPS by default. The goal of an SSL stripping attack is to force a user’s browser to connect to an unencrypted version of the website. Check out the online cyber security training to learn more.
How Does It Work?
A man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack is used to carry out an SSL stripping assault. An attacker can control the data that is sent to the user by getting in the way of the communication between a client and a web server. The user can then filter the packets sent between the client and the server once they are there.
A typical, unencrypted TCP connection serves as the foundation for an SSL/TLS connection. The client has two options after establishing a TCP connection: start an SSL/TLS session or immediately request web content using plain HTTP.
The attacker in an SSL stripping attack intercepts all communication between the client and the server and “strips” any SSL content from the client’s requests before transmitting them to the server. As a result, the attacker delivers the client the unencrypted HTTP version of the page that the server made available.
The attacker can establish two distinct connections if the service only offers HTTPS webpages. They would continue their HTTP connection with the client and provide the desired content. By establishing their own HTTPS connection to the server and navigating to the same pages as the user requests, they might obtain this content.
Types of SSL Stripping Attacks
The key difficulty for the attacker in an SSL stripping assault is to execute the man-in-the-middle attack required for them to intercept communication between the client and the server. An attacker can do this in a few different methods, such as:
- ARP spoofing: An attack that maps the target’s IP address to the attacker’s MAC address can be carried out by an attacker if they are both on the same local area network (LAN). By doing this, all information meant for the target is instead transferred to the attacker’s computer.
- Proxy Servers: By setting up a computer to use a proxy server, all traffic will be routed through that site before reaching its final destination. An attacker can intercept all of the user’s browsing traffic if they can convince the target computer to utilise their server as a proxy.
- Malicious Public Wi-Fi: An intruder can create a public Wi-Fi network that looks exactly like a reliable network. The attacker has access to all wireless traffic passing via their rogue router if users connect to the network.
Business Risks of SSL Stripping Attacks
SSL/TLS protection for online traffic is removed by SSL stripping attacks. This can be used in a number of attacks that harm the company, including:
- Credential Theft: SSL stripping attacks may be used to persuade users to provide their credentials on unprotected websites, allowing an attacker to take such credentials.
- Sensitive Data Exposure: SSL stripping enables an attacker to read every piece of information that is transferred between the client and the server, possibly disclosing sensitive information.
- Phishing sites: Websites that contain malware or other phishing content are known as “phishing sites.” An attacker may present a malicious version of a website that does this.
- Malicious Content: An attacker could insert harmful content into the user’s web pages, possibly distributing malware or carrying out other nefarious deeds.
How to Prevent SSL Stripping Attacks
Attacks that use SSL stripping rely on the attacker’s capacity to launch a MitM attack and secretly switch a user to an unencrypted HTTP connection. Among the defences against SSL stripping attacks are:
- Require HSTS: To prevent SSL stripping attacks, HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) requires that a browser only open websites via HTTPS.
- Enable Secure Cookies: Only websites that utilise HTTPS can access secure cookies, which are used to identify users. Secure cookies ensure that only HTTPS connections can be used to send cookie data.
- User Instruction: Employees should receive training on how to spot unencrypted HTTP sites.
- Use a VPN: To give remote users a safe, encrypted connection that keeps hackers from performing a MitM attack, use a VPN or a similar service.
A cybercriminal can launch a MitM attack using SSL stripping techniques, which can be exploited for eavesdropping or other malicious objectives. These attacks can be defended against via user education and the usage of a VPN on untrusted networks.
SSL stripping attacks are not the only danger a business or its customers may encounter. To find out more about the most important threats to be on the lookout for in the current cyber threat scenario, check out the cyber security online course.