SSL stripping attack is a cybersecurity threat and it leads to a downgrade from an HTTPS connection to a less secure encrypted connection, preferably HTTP. The attacker does so by either removing or modifying the SSL or TLS encryption which is used to secure communication between the user and the web server.
The purpose of such attacks is quite clear and that is to steal valuable and sensitive information communicated by the user. This includes your Credit/Debit Card numbers, their CVV, expiry date, site passwords, and others. The real problem is that the user remains unaware of the current situation and continues providing other sensitive information.
In this post, we are going to discuss the following topics about SSL stripping attacks and ways to prevent them from happening on Windows –
- What is an SSL Stripping attack?
- How does an SSL stripping attack work?
- How to prevent SSL stripping attacks in Windows?
- Different Certificate types of SSL
- What kind of attacks does SSL prevent?
What is an SSL Stripping attack?
SSL stripping is one of its kind attack that aims to steal sensitive information transmitted over the internet by exploiting weaknesses in the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption protocols.
In an SSL stripping attack, the attacker intercepts and modifies the communication between a user and a website in such a way that the secure SSL/TLS encryption is stripped or downgraded to an insecure connection, allowing the attacker to intercept and potentially modify sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other confidential data.
Hackers often perform such attacks using tools such as ARP spoofing, DNS spoofing, or by setting up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot. The goal of the attacker is to trick the user into thinking they are communicating with a secure website, when in fact they are sending sensitive information over an insecure connection.
If you want to remain one step ahead of such SSL stripping attacks, you should always verify the security of a site by checking its SSL/TLS certificate. Moreover, your connection should always remain encrypted. Configure your device to always open HTTPS sites only, use a good antivirus program, and keep all your programs and Windows 11/10 up to date.
How does an SSL stripping attack work?
In an SSL stripping attack, the attacker exploits the existing weaknesses or vulnerabilities on your computer. The imposter intercepts and modifies the communication between a user and a website and gets his hand on our crucial information like passwords, credit card numbers, and other important data.
If you want to know how an SSL stripping works, read the following excerpt –
- First of all, an attacker intercepts the communication between the user and the Web Server by using tools like ARP spoofing, DNS spoofing, or by setting up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot.
- The attacker then strips or downgrades the SSL/TLS encryption, so that the communication between the user and the website is no longer secure.
- Since the user is unaware of the stripped encryption, s/he continues their communications with the hacked site. As soon as they enter some sensitive information, the attacker intercepts the data and saves the same to his/her breached data list.
- Unaware of the hack going on in the background, the website receives modified data.
That’s it, all information that you have shared over the compromised site is now under the radar. What one can do to prevent such attacks is provided in the next section.
How to prevent SSL stripping attacks in Windows?
You should always do things within your reach to safeguard all your data available on your Windows PC. In case you fear the SSL stripping attack, you may prevent the same by following these easy tricks –
- Always Use HTTPS: Although all websites have ensured putting an HTTPS padlock to their domain, there are a few remaining ones. While reaching out to a website, make sure to check for this padlock sign and proceed only when you find this SSL lock icon.
- Verify SSL/TLS certificates: Make a habit of checking the padlock sign every time you are going to enter sensitive information like Credit/Debit card numbers, their Pins, and others.
- Go for a premium antivirus program: If you use some free antivirus program by a third party, stop using that. You can either use Windows Security or go for a premium subscription to an external security app. Do update the antivirus program on a regular basis.
- Use a VPN: Using a virtual private network (VPN) can help prevent SSL stripping attacks by encrypting your internet connection and routing your traffic through a secure server.
- Update all your drivers and Windows: Regularly check for software updates, including your web browser, operating system, and any plugins or extensions you may have installed. This helps to patch up any existing vulnerabilities on your computer.
- Never use public WiFi: Avoid using public WiFi on your computer or mobile as this provides a backdoor to attackers to compromise your internal files and folders. If there is some urgency, make sure not to enter any sensitive information on your gadget.
These are some of the dos and don’ts that one should always follow to avoid SSL stripping attacks on Windows.
Different Certificate types of SSL
There are basically three main types of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates and they are –
- Domain Validated (DV) Certificates: This is one of the basic SSL certificates and it only verifies that the applicant in reality owns the domain. Owners may receive such a certificate within minutes and all they get from it is basic website security and encryption.
- Organization Validated (OV) Certificates: This is a level-up SSL certificate and it verifies the identity as well as the domain ownership of an organization. Owners need to apply for such certificates and they receive one in 2-3 days. Such SSL validation is essential for e-commerce websites.
- Extended Validation (EV) Certificates: This is the highest level of SSL/TLS certification available till today. Since this is a premium-level validation, only big organizations go for such certificates.
All these certificates have their own pros and cons. Moving up the ladder, you will need to pay extra subscription charges and as a result of this, you will have the best features and security.
What kind of attacks does SSL prevent?
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and its successor Transport Layer Security (TLS) are encryption protocols that you may use to prevent a range of security attacks. The most common attacks and what SSL/TLS does to prevent them are as follows –
- Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks: In a MITM attack, the hacker intercepts communication between the client and server and can read, modify, or inject malicious data into the communication. When you use an SSL, this will encrypt all communications between the client and server. As a result of this, the data become unreadable by the attacker.
- Eavesdropping: As stated earlier, an SSL/TLS protection encrypts communication between the client and server and thus there isn’t concern over eavesdropping by some third parties.
- Data tampering: An SSL certificate prevents data tampering by using cryptographic hashes and digital signatures to verify the integrity of the data being transmitted between the client and server.
- Phishing: With SSL/TSL certification, you can easily prevent phishing attacks on your computer. This is because this certificate always ensures verifying the identity of the server and establishing trust in the connection.
- Session hijacking: Again as all communication is encrypted between the client and the Server, there is very little chance of session hijacking happening on your device.
I suppose now you get a pretty good grasp of different attacks that an SSL protocol prevents from happening to your website, organization, and others.
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