How SSLStripping Works, Its Risks, and How to Defend Against It

3 min readMar 27, 2024

Hey there, pals! Today, i am going to a introduce you to a little vulnerability called SSLStripping. You might not have heard of it, but trust me, it’s something you should know about if you’re roaming around the vast landscape of the internet.

What’s SSLStripping Anyway?

Picture this: You’re casually browsing online, maybe checking your bank balance or catching up on your favorite social media updates. Everything seems secure with that familiar little padlock icon in your browser’s address bar, indicating a safe connection. But hold on a second — things might not be as secure as they seem. Here SSLTripping comes in play to ruin your privacy.

http and https connection

SSLStripping is a cyberattack where a hacker intercepts a supposedly secure HTTPS connection and downgrades it to an unsecure HTTP connection. This attack makes it possible for the hacker to eavesdrop on sensitive information being transmitted between you and the website you’re interacting with, such as login credentials or personal details. It’s a way for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in online security and compromise your privacy without your knowledge.

How Does SSLStripping Work?

The mastermind behind SSLStripping is none other than Moxie Marlinspike, who’s now famous for creating the ultra-secure messaging app, Signal. But before that, he made waves in the hacking world with his tool called sslstrip.

Here’s the lowdown: Many websites used to be lazy about security, serving up content over unsecured HTTP connections until you hit a login page or did something deemed “risky.” SSLStripping takes advantage of this laziness. It intercepts your traffic before it gets upgraded to HTTPS, swaps out those secure URLs with insecure ones, and voila! When you innocently type in your username and password, the attacker snatches them up while still letting the request go through as if nothing happened.

http connection downgrade

Why Should You Care?

Well, aside from the obvious creepiness of someone snooping on your internet activity, SSLStripping poses real risks. It’s often used to steal credentials on websites that mix HTTP and HTTPS, leaving unsuspecting users vulnerable to identity theft and other cyber attacks.

Defending Against SSLStripping

So, how can you protect yourself from this attack? It’s simple: enforce HTTPS everywhere! Websites should make sure all traffic, whether it’s cat memes or credit card info, is served over a secure connection. One way to do this is by implementing HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), which tells browsers to always use HTTPS for a specified period.

Here’s a snippet of code for you tech-savvy folks out there:

For Nginx:

server {
listen 80;

# Redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS
return 301 https://$server_name$request_uri;

server {
listen 443 ssl; server_name;

# Uses the following certificate to encrypt traffic,
# and the paired private key to decrypt it.
ssl_certificate /path/to/ssl/certificate.crt;
ssl_certificate_key /path/to/ssl/private.key;

# Enable HSTS with a max-age of 1 year (31536000 seconds).
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";

# Ensures the use of a minimally strong version of TLS
ssl_protocols TLSv1.3;

For Apache:

# Redirect HTTP to HTTPS
<VirtualHost *:80>

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule ^ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

# Load SSL module
LoadModule ssl_module modules/

# SSL/TLS Configuration
<VirtualHost _default_:443>

# Enable HSTS with a max-age of 1 year (31536000 seconds).
Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000"

# SSL Engine Setup
SSLEngine on

# Uses the following certificate to encrypt traffic,
# and the paired private key to decrypt it.
SSLCertificateFile /path/to/your/certificate.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /path/to/your/private-key.key

# Minimal SSL Protocol Settings
SSLProtocol +TLSv1.3

# Other SSL/TLS Configuration (optional)
# SSLCipherSuite, SSLHonorCipherOrder, SSLCompression, etc.

# Logging
ErrorLog "/var/log/httpd/error_log"
TransferLog "/var/log/httpd/access_log"

By implementing these measures, you can protect your system against the lurking threat of SSLStripping. That’s all for today.

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