Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition 6.1 Reference

Man-In-the-Middle Attack

The man-in-the-middle is a rogue program that intercepts all communication between the client and a server with which the client is attempting to communicate via SSL. The rogue program intercepts the legitimate keys that are passed back and forth during the SSL handshake, substitutes its own, and makes it appear to the client that it is the server, and to the server that it is the client.

The encrypted information exchanged at the beginning of the SSL handshake is actually encrypted with the rogue program’s public key or private key, rather than the client’s or server’s real keys. The rogue program ends up establishing one set of session keys for use with the real server, and a different set of session keys for use with the client. This allows the rogue program not only to read all the data that flows between the client and the real server, but also to change the data without being deleted. Therefore, it is extremely important for the client to check that the domain name in the server certificate corresponds to the domain name of the server with which a client is attempting to communicate—in addition to checking the validity of the certificate by performing the other steps described in Server Authentication During SSL Handshake