Our company has determined that the term "man-in-the-middle (attack)", which is computer science lingo, is non-compliant with our stance on gender neutrality.

What is the best way to use this terminology and be gender neutral while maintaining communication efficiency?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Dec 22 '20 at 6:14

17 Answers 17


What is the best way to use this terminology and be gender neutral while maintaining communication efficiency?

I would suggest that your original term, "man-in-the-middle (attack)", remains the best fit. It's not true that this can't be considered gender neutral - most dictionaries will confirm that there is a sense of the word 'man' that can stand for any person, e.g. from google: 2. a human being of either sex; a person.

Note that two of the most common "men in the middle" in examples are Eve (here, here, here) and Mallory (here) - i.e. most likely female. These names come from the common cast of characters in cryptographic literature.

Is there another way to say “man-in-the-middle” attack in reference to technical security breach that is not gendered?

There are other ways, mentioned in other answers, but not ways that will be as easily understood. "Man in the middle" is something of a fixed phrase, often abbreviated as MITM.

Variations such as "Monster in the Middle" are fun, but if communication efficiency is a concern, most people are going to find them a distraction. This may of course change over time if "Monster in the Middle" starts to catch on.

Our company has determined that the term "man-in-the-middle (attack)" is non-compliant with our stance on gender neutrality.

I would expect such a company to recommend an alternative term.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Dec 23 '20 at 1:17

There are several gender-neutral names for a MITM attack¹:

• monster-in-the-middle

Since 1989, experts have been arguing that Internet security requires cryptographic protocols, ensuring security against Monster-in-the-Middle (MitM) attackers.
Cornell University

• machine-in-the-middle

There are known attacks on (D)TLS, such as machine-in-the-middle and protocol downgrade.

• monkey-in-the-middle

Although monkey-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are well-known, little is done to prevent them.

• person-in-the-middle (PITM)

TLS depends on public-key cryptography to establish session keys to secure each connection and prevent person-in-the middle attacks.
Information Sciences Institute

Since (a) you can keep the "MITM" abbreviation and (b) there is a popular analogous game by that name, I suggest "monkey-in-the-middle attack".

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Dec 23 '20 at 1:16

I really think "person-in-the-middle" is the only option which satisfies both your requirements. Replacing "man" by "person" is a very standard way to avoid terms which might be perceived as gender-biased (for example "chairperson" can now be found in most dictionaries). Anyone familiar with a man-in-the-middle attack will therefore recognise "person-in-the-middle" as being a gender-neutral modification with no intended change of meaning.

Using something like "manatee-in-the-middle" is a potential barrier to efficient communication IMO. It is quite common to modify existing terms in a similar way in order to describe a specific subtype of the basic scam (such as "hatfishing": a type of catfishing which conceals one's baldness). Consequently the reader, on encountering the term, might expect it to have a subtly different meaning and waste time thinking about the potential connotations of aquatic mammals in this context.

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    Thanks for pointing out that "clever" renaming of an existing term can result in more barriers to communication, not less. This is doubly true whenever a group consists of non-native language speakers. Idioms, regional phrases, or even puns can sound fine to native speakers but cause a ton of unnecessary confusion. Person-in-the-middle is clear and satisfies the goal of the question IMO. – Nate Barbettini Dec 22 '20 at 16:57
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    Except that "person in the middle" is speciesist. – Hot Licks Dec 23 '20 at 14:21
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    The downside of "person in the middle" is that PITM reads (to me) as "pain in the ... M?" – Extrarius Dec 24 '20 at 17:18
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    @HotLicks Is this a sugestion to improve the answer, or a joke? If it's a joke, I don't get it. – Vaelus Dec 24 '20 at 18:51
  • @Vaelus - thefreedictionary.com/speciesist – Hot Licks Dec 24 '20 at 19:04

You could try "Malicious-In-The-Middle" to keep the MITM acronym.

In traditional cryptography naming, the one who performs the MITM attack is Mallory which will not help because that's a firstname but it fits the M in MITM.

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    Or use MITM-In-The-Middle to keep the acronym forever. – iBug Dec 23 '20 at 4:50
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    Or "malefactor". – chepner Dec 23 '20 at 15:55
  • @chepner great suggestion - though I might worry that people could think 'malefactor' refers to males.... – topo Reinstate Monica Dec 23 '20 at 22:14
  • 'Malicious' is distracting and not correct. In majority of real cases the entity-in-the-middle is a good one, eg. corporate SSL certificate injected in list of root certificates etc. – maoizm Dec 31 '20 at 16:13
  • Yes, in the vast, vast majority of real cases the connection is broken by a rightful entity. You would not use the MITM expression in that case, as MITM is universally understood as adversarial. – WoJ Dec 31 '20 at 16:40

I personally like the Agent-in-the-middle as it sort of fits with a scenario of an intelligence agent intercepting the information. (you'll have to drop the MITM acronym though)


I would like to suggest: Unauthorized Proxy attack.

The attack, of course, is to insert an unauthorized proxy between you and a resource you want to reach. In doing so, the attacker can assume control of some aspects of your communication with that resource, potentially including etc etc.

I cannot say this is a "standard" or "common" use, but it is descriptive, short, and gets to the point without much confusion.

  • It is actually a reverse proxy, you hide the actual target (the intended one) behind something that advertizes as such. – WoJ Dec 22 '20 at 21:08
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    If you had to replace the whole phrase instead of just varying the first word (e.g. to "machine" ITM), this is one of the few answers I've seen that would actually be viable: still specific enough (rules out passive eavesdropping), and the name evokes exactly the sort of thing you can do with such access. Upvoted for that reason, but I think variants that still abbreviate to MITM are much better. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 1:43
  • @WoJ the attack is in both directions, isn't it? So "reverse" doesn't seem to be needed. "unauthorized proxy attack" is a good description, BTW. Too bad is doesn't keep MITM as an acronym. – Eric Duminil Dec 24 '20 at 13:06
  • @EricDuminil: not exactly. This is a matter of semantics but when you "proxy" traffic, you redirect all of your traffic to a place (the proxy) that then sends it further. This is typical in corp environments (though now with transparent proxies it is less of a thing). A reverse proxy hides the actual target, when you hit "www.example.com", it actually reaches the reverse proxy that then pushes the traffic somewhere. – WoJ Dec 25 '20 at 19:27
  • @EricDuminil (cont'd) In an attack context, you expect to go to www.example.com, but the man in the middle managed to trick your traffic into going somewhere else (by changing the DNS configuration for instance) and you hit their equipment. This equipment does things (dumps traffic, changes it, etc.) and then directs to the real target. Of course the traffic is both ways (it always is), the direction is not the discriminant here, it is what the proxy (or reverse proxy) does. – WoJ Dec 25 '20 at 19:28

What is the best way to use this terminology and be gender neutral while maintaining communication efficiency?

The best way is to use Machine-in-the-middle instead.

You really can't easily replace well-known acronyms in technical writing, which strongly favors MITM. Also, since this term pre-dates computing, updating to Machine-in-the-Middle is more accurate too, as no human could directly carry out this attack in a computer network.

Monkey-in-the-Middle evokes the game, in which the player in the middle is known to the other players, who are actively avoiding passing them the ball. So it misses the sense of a MITM attack, where the existence of the third party is secret.

  • Machine-in-the-middle doesn't seem too surprising, though, is it? If I login to my bank account, I expect machines to be involved. It doesn't mean that they belong to a malevolent third-party, though. – Eric Duminil Dec 24 '20 at 12:26
  • Basically when one of those machines is secretly acting as a “proxy” rather than a “router” it’s an attack. But yes “man” coneys that there is a malicious agent involved better. – David Browne - Microsoft Dec 24 '20 at 13:21
  • but "machine" is too generic, then, isn't it? It doesn't say anything about the distinction between router and proxy. – Eric Duminil Dec 24 '20 at 13:26
  • Yes, but unless you're in a context where it's appropriate to completely rename the scenario (like a textbook), I believe you're stuck with MITM as the acronym. And I think "Machine" is the best of the M's. – David Browne - Microsoft Dec 24 '20 at 16:13
  • No. Man-in-the-middle is 1000 times better than machine-in-the-middle, because the latter is neither known nor descriptive. – Eric Duminil Dec 24 '20 at 16:20

As suggested in topo's answer, man-in-the-middle is a fixed phrase and should not be changed.

If your corporation decides that man goes against their gender-neutral policy, you can stick to its acronym and just keep saying MITM (em-eye-tee-em). No one will have trouble understanding this term, and you do a perfect job avoiding the offending word.

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    “No one will have trouble understanding this term” – that very much depends on the audience, and in many cases “MITM” would just cause blank stares. “Man-in-the-middle” is self-explanatory, and so would be “person-in-the-middle” and “monster/machine/monkey–in-the-middle”. The latter have the advantage of staying consistent with the acronym, so I would argue they are the best options for the OP. – leftaroundabout Dec 23 '20 at 8:47
  • This strategy can be applied to a host of well-known but offensive acronyms: BFR, MILF, WTF. "They are just letters. Bee-Eff-Rrr. No special meaning behind them." [Whistles innocently while walking away.] – Peter - Reinstate Monica Dec 24 '20 at 11:19
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica: "Winning The Future"? – supercat Dec 24 '20 at 21:26
  • Using a term that clearly refers to a problematic etymology does not fully remove the problem (I don't think that WAP or NWA are SFW), and it requires that when introducing the term, we either introduce that etymology, or leave the term with no explanation of where it comes from. – Acccumulation Dec 24 '20 at 22:18

You've come to an English-language stack to ask a sociological question

You're received a great many (and quite good quality) suggestions to replace the word "man" in the title "man-in-the-middle." However, every answer posted here (and any answer that in the future could be posted here) is irrelevant unless your company is in a position to change one of the largest, most internationally represented industries on Earth. You can therefore choose anything you want as there is no best answer — but that will come with a price. Whatever you choose will only be useful within the boundary of your own company and at best won't be (at least quickly) recognized outside your company.

Changing phrases in the networking industry might only be second to convincing the English-speaking world to discover a gender-neutral word to replace "history." (Consider how difficult it would be to convince the planet to use the word "ourstory.")

Curiously, considering that most gender neutralization efforts are focused on reducing male-positive references to gender-neutral references, it seems almost like busy work to convert a male-negative phrase like "man-in-the-middle attack" to a gender neutral. many will realize my previous statement has nothing to do with the English language. Indeed, it doesn't. It's sociological. But, so is this question.

Therefore, to fully answer your question: due to the industry confusion any such attempt would inspire, there isn't a better gender-neutral title than what you're using right now.

If your employer is sincerely interested in gender neutralizing this or any other phrase in your industry, they should start, not by asking what phrase to use, but how they would use that effort to engage the industry. Honestly, you would likely generate a lot of positive press by promoting the effort and asking the industry what phrase it would prefer. It might select one of the options here — but you might be surprised that it doesn't select one offered here at all.

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    Not even that: it's a technical question. A company is not at liberty to invent its own terminology, unless it is happy to be sidelined. the term used by the custodians of the definitives remains "Man in the Middle" and that is what should be used. – Mark Morgan Lloyd Dec 24 '20 at 12:00
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    @MarkMorganLloyd That's a good way to summarize my post. The company's action was social, not technical, concerning an issue that should have been technical, not social. If they're not careful, they'll soon realize the road to hell really is paved with good - but usually not well thought out - intentions. – JBH Dec 24 '20 at 16:27
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    I'm not sure how, but my comment got slightly grabled. I was trying to refer to the custodian of the definitive CVE list of vulnerabilities, which I think is ultimately the US government via NIST. OP's organisation is a consumer of that list and is a consumer of the effort put into reporting vulnerabilities by others, and needs to respect that. – Mark Morgan Lloyd Dec 24 '20 at 16:59
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    "History" is a gender-neutral word. Someone without much knowledge of etymology and a tendency to speculate could parse it as "his story," but of course it comes from the Greek word ἱστορέω, the same root which ultimately also gives us "story," and which has nothing do with gendered possesive pronouns. That's why in Spanish, the word for both is historia (and not "sustoria" or something those lines). By contrast, "man-in-the-middle" was transparently created from the word "man" after this latter word had already acquired a masculine connotation ("I now pronounce you man and wife"). – Obie 2.0 Dec 24 '20 at 21:51
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    @Obie2.0 My choice of the word "history" was intentional. You missed my point, but that's OK. – JBH Dec 25 '20 at 2:54

tl;dr The term "man-in-the-middle" is already completely gender-neutral when understood. Those who'd misinterpret "man" as an adult male human are liable to have similar misconceptions about other aspects of the term, so it'd probably be most helpful to address these sorts of misconceptions together.

Specific suggestions:

Standard term Potential substitute
man-in-the-middle [Pick a more specific term.]
passive man-in-the-middle attacker intermediary that spies on communications
passive man-in-the-middle attack intermediary spying event
active man-in-the-middle attacker intermediary that alters communications
active man-in-the-middle attack intermediary communication-altering event
active-or-passive man-in-the-middle attacker intermediary that spies on or alters communications
active-or-passive man-in-the-middle attack intermediary spying-or-communication-alteration event

What's a man-in-the-middle (MitM)?

Clarifications regarding a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack:

  1. The "man" is a generic entity.

    • It is not assumed to be singular, human, adult, nor male.

    • In practice, it's usually non-human.

  2. The "middle" is a generic position between the endpoints.

    • It is not assumed to be midway between the endpoints.

    • In practice, it's usually not located at equal distances from the endpoints.

  3. The "attack" is a generic undesired interaction.

    • It is not assumed to be a physical attack, nor to result in harm, physical or otherwise.

    • In practice, it's often either passive spying or active filtering. Active filtering is often well-intentioned.

For the purpose of this question, we can probably group interpretations of the term into two categories:

  1. Interpretations which mistakenly conceptualize the "man" as a singular adult male human.

  2. Interpretations which don't make that mistake.

If we changed the word "man" to a gender-neutral alternative, e.g. "person", then:

  1. Those who understood that "man" wasn't a singular adult male wouldn't find the new term to be any more clear, as they weren't confused in the first place.

  2. Those who misunderstood "man" as a singular adult male would probably still be substantially confused about most of what the term means; merely losing the presumption of the "man" being a male would be a pretty small step in the right direction.

So there'd seem to be two major solution pathways:

  1. Leave the term as-is. Those who understand it already understand that it's not gendered, while those who misunderstand it as gendered have much larger conceptual problems to deal with anyway.

  2. Choose a new term that substantially addresses the body of misconceptions that someone who'd read "man" as gendered is likely to have.

Assuming you want a new term, then presumably Solution Pathway (2) would be the way to go. So, let's not just substitute something for "man", but rather rework the term entirely to avoid the constellation of related misconceptions that someone who misunderstood "man-in-the-middle" would presumably be disposed toward.

Since the term is already fine in the abstract, the confusion would likely have to be addressed at the level at which it exists, i.e. at the level of overly literal interpretations which are intolerant of overloaded terminology. To address this, presumably we ought to focus on choosing terms which have more literal primary definitions.

Specific points to fix up:

  1. Instead of "man", more literally refer to the generic entity in the line-of-communication.

  2. Instead of "middle", more literally refer to the property of being a link in a the line-of-communication between end-points.

  3. Instead of "attack", more literally refer to the behavior of the intermediary to do something other than blindly pass along a communicated message.

  4. Instead of using an abstract term that refers to both active and passive man-in-the-middle attacks, select different terms that more concretely refer to these cases separately.

Specific suggestions: For passive man-in-the-middle attacks.

A passive man-in-the-middle attack is when a communication link gets information from the messages it passes.

Simple example: If students pass notes in a classroom, then a student between the note-sender and note-recipient who looks at what the note says is a passive-man-in-the-middle.

Such a passive man-in-the-middle attack might be called:

  1. an intermediary spying event.

The passive-man-in-the-middle attacker might be called:

  1. an intermediary that spies on communications;

  2. a spying intermediary.

Specific suggestions: For active man-in-the-middle attacks.

An active man-in-the-middle attack is when a communication link alters information from the messages it passes. This can include inserting fake content or/and removing real content.

Simple example: If students pass notes in a classroom, then a student between the note-sender and note-recipient who tampers with what the note says is an active-man-in-the-middle.

Such an active man-in-the-middle attack might be called:

  1. an intermediary communication-altering event;

  2. an intermediary communication-tampering event.

The active-man-in-the-middle attacker might be called:

  1. an intermediary that alters communications;

  2. a communication-altering intermediary;

  3. a tampering intermediary.

Discussion: Regarding descriptions of "attacks" and "malice".

An attacker is someone who attempts to harm the subject of the attack. They have malice toward that which they intend to harm – by definition, as their intent to harm something is malice toward it.

This can get confusing when we talk about stuff like communication protocols, as someone can attack in one subjective frame but not another.

For example, say you're walking down a sidewalk, when a car swerves and nearly hits you, but someone else shoves you out of the way: did they "attack" you?

  • In a sense, yes. By forcibly altering your body without your consent or permission, they've attacked you, in the sense of the you-who-didn't-want-to-be-physically-altered-by-a-stranger-without-consent-or-permission.

  • In a sense, no. By saving you from being hit by a car, they saved you, in the sense of the you-who-wouldn't-want-to-have-been-hit-by-a-car.

  • In a sense, kinda, but it was okay. Assuming they couldn't have easily saved you without touching/shoving you without consent, then typical social norms would find the good aspect of their behavior to be superior to the poor aspect of their behavior, for a positive net overall judgement.

This gets more complicated when we start talking about online communications because people online adopt many simultaneous identities. For example, when you connect to a bank account, various notions of you desire:

  1. to have a secure connection to your bank account;

  2. to connect to what you think is your bank's webpage;

  3. to not be tricked into connecting to a fake bank site;

  4. to not have anyone tamper with your bank account without your permission;

  5. to have financial security;

and many more.

So, hypothetically, say a scammer sends you an email that fradulently claims to be from your bank. The scammer wants you to click a link that'll send you to a webpage that looks like your bank's website, because they copied it, but sends your login credentials to the scammer instead. But your country's intelligence services have, without your knowledge or consent, established filtering mechanisms that detect such fraud attempts and then block them. One such intelligence-agent felt guilty about hacking your email without consent, so they ended up stealing your online-banking-credentials instead of the scammer, using them to deposit a bunch of money in your account. So.. did they attack you?

In a bunch of senses, yes: they spied on you, tampered with your communications, and altered your bank account without your permission. All pretty serious attacks! But in a bunch of senses, no: they saved you from having your life wrecked, and gave you greater financial security, as you'd have liked.

So, how do cyber-security experts judge who's an attacker and who's not? They don't!

Not an in overall sense, anyway. Rather, anyone who acts outside of protocol, regardless of their greater intent, is a "malicious attacker" in the context subjective to that protocol. Because they've attacked the protocol, which in the subjective context of the protocol is the thing that'd be attacked by an "attacker". And they're "malicious" in the sense of having acted to harm the intended operation of the protocol.

Long story short, "attackers" and "malicious actors" aren't necessarily references to actions that a normal person would find reprehensible. Rather, in-context, we're talking about relationships to technical protocols and whatnot.

  • May try to figure out how to be more concise at the end. I think the reasoning for the terminology being what it is is essential to understanding the terminology itself, so I'm not fond of merely writing authoritative definitions, though it'd be nice to be less verbose. I think the issue is that I had to come up with long-winded examples of how situations could be subjective; it'd probably be cleaner if I could find accessible descriptions of such subjectivity-in-descriptors without the long-winded examples and stories. – Nat Dec 24 '20 at 21:28
  • Is "passive man-in-the-middle attack" actually a standard term? The standard meaning of MitM is an active attack, not just eavesdropping. (Another answer suggested "unauthorized proxy" which nicely captures the crux of the attack, defeating end-to-end encryption if authentication can't detect it). So "passive MITM" sounds like an oxymoron to me, or muddies the waters and introduces the possibility that "MITM" could maybe be used to describe passive eavesdropping in transit as well. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 21:29
  • @PeterCordes: Yeah, that's how I've understood the terminology. For example, yeah, I'd consider a passive eavesdropper to be a man-in-the-middle so long as they're an intermediary (as opposed to an external observer). I've understood the defining quality of a MitM to be an intermediary that acts outside of expectations -- e.g. by eavesdropping, altering messages, intentionally dropping messages, or forging messages. Then the passive/active distinction was based on if these behaviors altered the observable behavior of the intermediary (making it active) or didn't (leaving it passive). – Nat Dec 24 '20 at 21:44
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-in-the-middle_attack exclusively talks about active attacks. The attacker must be able to intercept all relevant messages passing between the two victims and inject new ones. Not only can you see the traffic, you must be able to stop the endpoints from getting messages past you. Wikipedia's description matches my understanding of the term, and makes "passive MITM" an oxymoron. There are other terms like "eavesdropping" for passive interception without altering or selectively dropping. Even just selectively dropping some messages isn't really MITM. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 21:48
  • @PeterCordes: That's consistent for me. The start from Wikipedia matches my definition: "In cryptography and computer security, a man-in-the-middle, monster-in-the-middle,[1][2] machine-in-the-middle, monkey-in-the-middle[3] (MITM) or person-in-the-middle[4] (PITM) attack is a cyberattack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communications between two parties who believe that they are directly communicating with each other.". And if it does alter the communications, then it's active; otherwise, passive. – Nat Dec 24 '20 at 21:55

I would probably go for something completely different and reword it completely while maintaining the meaning.

Call it a "Login interception attack" or an "eavesdropping attack".

After all, "Man in the middle" isn't a computer science term, as you put it; rather, it pre-dates computing by quite some time, and comes from the practice of messages (written on paper) being intercepted in transit. It was used to describe the computing authentication-stealing attack in order to depict a technical concept to a non-technical audience.

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    I was looking for a name that would use the term "interception". Signal Interception or something in that vein. Since the basic concept is to intercept data packets, make modifications to them, then pass them along again without the sender or recipient realising what's happening. Perhaps some use of the phrase "Signal Hijacking" or "packet hijacking" would be descriptive as well. – Ruadhan2300 Dec 23 '20 at 10:50
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    @Ruadhan2300 interception isn't the right word, though, is it? Login interception could mean the attacker simply gets the password, without bothering to pretend that the login process was as usual. – Eric Duminil Dec 23 '20 at 20:12
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    "eavesdropping attack" has a more general meaning and isn't exactly synonymous with MitM. To me, it would imply listen-only without modifying data on the fly in either direction. That's very different and much less powerful than MitM. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 1:39
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    Okay. This answer is definitely wrong, and really doesn't describe MITM at all. It doesn't "maintain the meaning". Being politically correct is important, but so is being correct. – Eric Duminil Dec 24 '20 at 12:23

Why not use a term that describes the situation more precisely?

One could call it an unauthorized intermediary attack, a concealed intermediary attack, or even better, a malicious intermediary attack. An intermediary typically is a go-between or broker that serves as a link between two parties. By default this relationship is voluntary, but this connotation is not sufficiently strong to render a phrase like "malicious intermediary" nonsense. With this type of attack, the attacker adopts an intermediary role without consent for a harmful purpose, for instance by recording communications while continuing to forward them to the appropriate parties. This is precisely what an authorized, well-meaning intermediary might do, except this role has been coopted for a sinister purpose.

Some of the other synonyms of intermediary could also work well here: for instance, the attacker might also be referred to as an unauthorized broker.

  • Really good points! "Intermediary" does seem like the right word. Might opt against "malicious" if folks are confused, as the nuance behind it may confuse folks if they're already confused by the standard terminology. – Nat Dec 24 '20 at 19:12
  • "Meddling Intermediary Taps Maliciously"? – supercat Dec 24 '20 at 21:31
  • @Nat - Well, malicious evokes the idea of malware, so I suppose people are already familiar with the concept. – Obie 2.0 Dec 24 '20 at 21:46

To communicate clearly, use the standard phrase or pick another entirely. Trying to modify a common term for political purposes will likely garner more offense than it saves.


It was suggested to use, "On-Path Attacker".

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    Could you please beef up the answer with some explanation as to how this is a suitable replacement. – Matt E. Эллен Dec 22 '20 at 14:03
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    FWIW, as someone familiar with the industry, this replacement isn't immediately obvious and would require an extra conversation to explain that "OPA" is the new "MITM". Person-in-the-middle has a chance of being obvious without additional explanation. – Nate Barbettini Dec 22 '20 at 16:59
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    On-path attacker does not name the same thing. It's the "man" in "MITM", but "MITM" names the attack not the attacker. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Dec 22 '20 at 17:11
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    @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE: to be precise, you can be on the path of the attack but not in a MITM context (you can passively eavesdrop on the wire fr instance) – WoJ Dec 22 '20 at 21:06

A colleague at work and I were delighted to discover it can also be called a Bucket brigade attack and have used that since!


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    A bucket brigade is usually a desirable thing (it allows transporting things more efficiently). I think it would be confusing to use the term to describe an attack. The bucket brigade analogy is actually more apt for the way normal Internet routing works. – Barmar Dec 22 '20 at 16:23
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    @Barmar: Wikipedia claims there's some precedent for this terminology: at the top of the linked page, it says: "For the hacking method known as the bucket brigade attack, see Man-in-the-middle attack." But yeah, I'd never heard of it, and the name doesn't evoke any obvious meaning like "unauthorized proxy" does. I hope this does not catch on because IMO it's a bad alternative for the widely-understood MITM. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 1:49

Consider replacing the English word “man”, with the Welsh word “man”, meaning “place”. Besides being gender neutral, this better signifies that the location of the attack (the middle) is the focus of attention rather than the agent performing the attack.

  • Are you also going to translate the "in the middle" part to Welsh? – Obie 2.0 Dec 24 '20 at 22:09
  • @Obie2.0 I'm pretty sure that's "in the middle" in Welsh. – Mitch Dec 24 '20 at 22:32
  • @Mitch - Sorry? "In the middle" is not Welsh, it is English. – Obie 2.0 Dec 25 '20 at 2:50
  • @Obie2.0 Sorry I totally misunderstood. 'in the middle' in Welsh translates to the English 'in the sun'. So whenever someone Welsh hears 'man in the middle' they are reminded of the story of a love triangle that ends in tragedy, a true 'man in the middle'. – Mitch Dec 25 '20 at 3:35
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    @Obie2.0 I'm just having a little fun. If jl6 suggests the Welsh 'man' as a gender neutral replacement for English 'man', no non-Welsh speaking person would understand that and just interpret it as plain old gendered English 'man'. So suggesting to use 'man' in place of 'man' would be absurd. And I just followed it with more absurdity, that the Welsh corresponding to 'in the middle' is also the same as English 'in the middle'. April Fools! – Mitch Dec 25 '20 at 16:28

I have picked one answer that I favor above others:

MitM is the MitM.

Thanks to my commenters. They helped me narrow it down.

  • 2
    None of these are standard names for this type of attack. – user253751 Dec 23 '20 at 22:11
  • @user253751 The whole point of this question is that the standard name is being discarded because it is gendered. Is there an existing non-gendered standard name for this attack that preserves the MitM acronym? Otherwise, the replacement will necessarily be initially non-standard. – emory Dec 23 '20 at 22:28
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    A few of these are usable, like "Meddler-in-the-Middle", but you need to pare down the list. Moron- or "MAGA-in-the-Middle" don't suggest malicious attacks, just failure in the middle possibly causing retries or alternate routes to be used. Mistrust- also doesn't capture the key idea of an unauthorized proxy. – Peter Cordes Dec 24 '20 at 1:52
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    You could always go the GNU route and have MITM stand for MITM-in-the-middle. – Especially Lime Dec 24 '20 at 16:26
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    @EspeciallyLime Shouldn't that be "MITM Isn't True Message"? – Acccumulation Dec 24 '20 at 22:42

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