How to detect an SSL Man-in-the-middle attack

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this week’s paper by Facebook Research is a bit dated (2014) as you also feel when reading through it (as it uses Flash Player as research ground), but nevertheless I learned quite a bit about how to perform and also detect an SSL Man-in-the-middle attack. In comparison to other approaches, the researcher in this paper was able to detect malicious SSL certificates without adding additional software to the browser. (TIL: Flash supported raw sockets)

Nice start into the world of SSL security and even though it’s age, I consider this a great article and a worthy read.


The SSL man-in-the-middle attack uses forged SSL certificates to intercept encrypted connections between clients and servers. However, due to a lack of reliable indicators, it is
still unclear how commonplace these attacks occur in the wild. In this work, we have designed and implemented a method to detect the occurrence of SSL man-in-the-middle attack on a top global website, Facebook. Over 3 million real-world SSL connections
to this website were analyzed. Our results indicate that 0.2% of the SSL connections analyzed were tampered with forged SSL certificates, most of them related to antivirus software and corporate-scale content filters. We have also identified some SSL
connections intercepted by malware. Limitations of the method and possible defenses to such attacks are also discussed.

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