4 min read


(For more resources on BackTrack, see here.)

Man-in-the-Middle attack

MITM attacks are probably one of most potent attacks on a WLAN system. There are different configurations that can be used to conduct the attack. We will use the most common one—the attacker is connected to the Internet using a wired LAN and is creating a fake access point on his client card. This access point broadcasts an SSID similar to a local hotspot in the vicinity. A user may accidently get connected to this fake access point and may continue to believe that he is connected to the legitimate access point.

The attacker can now transparently forward all the user’s traffic over the Internet using the bridge he has created between the wired and wireless interfaces.

In the following lab exercise, we will simulate this attack.

Time for action – Man-in-the-Middle attack

Follow these instructions to get started:

  1. To create the Man-in-the-Middle attack setup, we will first c create a soft access point called mitm on the hacker laptop using airbase-ng. We run the command airbase-ng –essid mitm –c 11 mon0:

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  2. It is important to note that airbase-ng when run, creates an interface at0 (tap interface). Think of this as the wired-side interface of our software-based access point mitm.

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  3. Let us now create a bridge on the hacker laptop, consisting of the wired (eth0) and wireless interface (at0). The succession of commands used for this are—brctl addbr mitm-bridge, brctl addif mitm-bridge eth0, brctl addif mitmbridge at0, ifconfig eth0 up, ifconfig at0 up:

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  4. We can assign an IP address to this bridge and check the connectivity with the gateway. Please note that we could do the same using DHCP as well. We can assign an IP address to the bridge interface with the command—ifconfig mitm-bridge up. We can then try pinging the gateway to ensure we are connected to the rest of the network:

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  5. Let us now turn on IP Forwarding in the kernel so that routing and packet forwarding can happen correctly using echo > 1 /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward:

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  6. Now let us connect a wireless client to our access point mitm. It would automatically get an IP address over DHCP (server running on the wired-side gateway). The client machine in this case receives the IP address We can ping the wired side gateway to verify connectivity:

  7. We see that the host responds to the ping requests as seen:

  8. We can also verify that the client is connected by looking at the airbase-ng terminal on the hacker machine:

    BackTrack 5: Advanced WLAN Attacks

  9. It is interesting to note here that because all the traffic is being relayed from the wireless interface to the wired-side, we have full control over the traffic. We can verify this by starting Wireshark and start sniffing on the at0 interface:

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge it.)

  10. Let us now ping the gateway from the client machine. We can now see the packets in Wireshark (apply a display filter for ICMP), even though the packets are not destined for us. This is the power of Man-in-the-Middle attacks!

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge it.)

What just happened?

We have successfully created the setup for a wireless Man-In-The-Middle attack. We did this by creating a fake access point and bridging it with our Ethernet interface. This ensured that any wireless client connecting to the fake access point would “perceive” that it is connected to the Internet via the wired LAN.

Have a go hero – Man-in-the-Middle over pure wireless

In the previous exercise, we bridged the wireless interface with a wired one. As we noted earlier, this is one of the possible connection architectures for an MITM. There are other combinations possible as well. An interesting one would be to have two wireless interfaces, one creates the fake access point and the other interface is connected to the authorized access point. Both these interfaces are bridged. So, when a wireless client connects to our fake access point, it gets connected to the authorized access point through the attacker machine.

Please note that this configuration would require the use of two wireless cards on the attacker laptop.

Check if you can conduct this attack using the in-built card on your laptop along with the external one. This should be a good challenge!

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