Australian Information Security Management Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Security Research Institute, Edith Cowan University


Associate Professor Mike Johnstone




Originally published as: Chong, K., Malik, M.I., & Hannay, P. (2018). Mitigating man-in-the-middle attacks on mobile devices by blocking insecure http traffic without using vpn. In proceedings of the 16th Australian Information Security Management Conference (pp. 1-13). Perth, Australia: Edith Cowan University.


Mobile devices are constantly connected to the Internet, making countless connections with remote services. Unfortunately, many of these connections are in cleartext, visible to third-parties while in transit. This is insecure and opens up the possibility for man-in-the-middle attacks. While there is little control over what kind of connection running apps can make, this paper presents a solution in blocking insecure HTTP packets from leaving the device. Specifically, the proposed solution works on the device, without the need to tunnel packets to a remote VPN server, and without special privileges such as root access. Speed tests were performed to quantify how much network speed is being impacted while filtering. To investigate how blocking HTTP traffic can affect day-to-day usage, common tasks were put to the tests, tasks such as browsing, searching, emailing, instant messaging, social networking, consuming streaming content, and gaming. The results from the tests are interesting, websites that do not support HTTPS were exposed, apps that do not fully support HTTPS were also being uncovered. One surprisingly, and arguably pleasant, side effect was discovered – the filtering solution blocks out advertisements in all of the games being tested, hence contributing to an improved gaming experience.