What is a brute force attack? | Definition, types and operation (2023)

Cyber ​​Threat Predictions for 2023

Definition of brute force attack

A brute force attack is a hacking method that uses trial and error to crack passwordsaccess dataand encryption key. It's a simple yet reliable tactic to gain unauthorized access to individual accounts and organizational systems and networks. The hacker will try multiple usernames and passwords, often using a computer to try a variety of combinations until the correct credentials are found.

The name "brute force" comes from attackers who use excessive force to try to gain access to user accounts. Despite being an old method of cyber attack, brute force attacks are tried and tested and remain a popular tactic among hackers.

Types of brute force attacks

There are several types ofBrute force attackMethods that allow attackers to gain unauthorized access and steal user data.

1. Simple brute force attacks

A simple brute force attack occurs when a hacker attempts to manually guess a user's credentials without using any software. This is usually done using standard password combinations or PIN (Personal Identification Number) codes.

These attacks are easy because many people still use weak passwords like "password 123" or "1234" or practice poor password etiquette, such as using the same password for multiple websites. Passwords can also be guessed by hackers who do minimal reconnaissance to crack someone's potential password, such as the name of their favorite sports club.

2. Dictionary attacks

A dictionary attack is a basic form of brute force hacking in which the attacker chooses a target and then tries possible passwords against that person's username. The attack method itself is not technically considered a brute force attack, but it can play an important role in an attacker's password-cracking process.

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The name "dictionary attack" comes from hackers who search dictionaries and modify words with special characters and numbers. This type of attack is typically time-consuming and has little chance of success compared to newer and more effective attack methods.

3. Brute-Force-Hybridangriffe

In a hybrid brute force attack, a hacker combines a dictionary attack method with a simple brute force attack. It begins when the hacker knows a username, then performs a dictionary attack and simple brute force methods to discover an account-login combo.

The attacker starts with a list of possible words and then experiments with combinations of characters, letters and numbers to find the right password. This approach allows hackers to discover passwords that combine common or popular words with numbers, dates, or random characters, such as For example, "SanDiego123" or "Rover2020".

4. Reverse brute force attacks

A reverse brute force attack causes an attacker to start the process with a known password, typically discovered through a network breach. They use this password to search for matching credentials from lists of millions of usernames. Attackers can also use a commonly used weak password like "Password123" to search a database of usernames for a match.

5. Fill out registration information

authorization fillingexploits users' weak password tags. Attackers collect stolen username and password combinations, which they then test on other websites to see if they can gain access to additional user accounts. This approach is successful when users use the same username and password combination or reuse passwords across multiple social media accounts and profiles.

What is a brute force attack? | Definition, types and operation (1)

What is the motive behind brute force attacks?

Brute force hacking requires a lot of patience as it can take an attacker months or even years to successfully crack a password or encryption key. However, the potential rewards are enormous.

Leverage ads or activity data

A hacker can launch a brute force attack on a website or multiple websites to make a financial profit from the advertising fee. Common methods include:

  1. Placing spam ads on popular websites, which allows the attacker to earn money each time a visitor clicks or views an ad.
  2. Redirect traffic from legitimate websites to illegal commissioned ad pages.
  3. Infecting a website and website visitors with malware, such as spyware, that tracks activity. The collected data is then sold to advertisers without the user's consent.

Steal personal information

Hacking a user's personal accounts can yield a treasure trove of data, from financial records and bank accounts to sensitive medical information. Access to an account allows an attacker to spoof someone's identity, steal their money, sell their credentials to third parties, or use the information to launch broader attacks.

(Video) Brute Force Attack and Types

Personal data and credentials can also be stolen through corporate data breaches, which allow attackers to gain access to companies' sensitive databases.

spread malware

Brute force attacks are often not personal. A hacker might just want to wreak havoc and show off their malicious skills. They can do this by proliferating malware via email or Short Message Service (SMS) messages, hiding malware in a fake website that looks like a legitimate website, or by redirecting website visitors to malicious websites.

By infecting a user's computer withMalware, the attacker can penetrate connected systems and networks and launch broader cyberattacks against organizations.

Hijacking systems for malicious activities

Brute force attacks can play a role in malicious actors launching broader, multi-device attacks known as a botnet. This is usually a distributed denial of service(DDoS) attackaimed at overpowering the target's defense and security systems.

Ruin the reputation of a company or website

Brute force attacks are often launched to steal data from an organization, not only costing them financially but also causing great reputational damage. Websites can also be targeted by infesting them with obscene or offensive text and images, thereby lowering their reputation, which could lead to their removal.

Brute force attack tools

Guessing the password for a user's email address or social networking site can be a slow process, especially if the accounts have strong passwords. To make the process easier, hackers have developed software and tools to help them crack passwords.

Brute force attack tools include password cracking applications that crack username and password combinations that would be extremely difficult for a person to crack himself. Commonly used brute force attack tools include:

  1. Aircrack-ng - A set of tools that assess the security of Wi-Fi networks to monitor and export data and attack an organization through methods such as rogue access points and packet injection.
  2. John the Ripper – An open-source password recovery tool that supports hundreds of encryption and hash types, including macOS, Unix, and Windows user passwords, database servers, web applications, network traffic, encrypted private keys, and document files.

These types of software can quickly guess combinations that identify weak passwords and crack multiple computer protocols, wireless modems, and encrypted storage devices.

A brute force attack can also require large amounts of computing power. To counter this, hackers have come up with hardware solutions that simplify the process, such as: B. the combination of the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics processing unit (GPU) of a device. The addition of the GPU processing core allows a system to process multiple tasks simultaneously and allows hackers to crack passwords much faster.

How to prevent brute force attacks

Individuals and organizations can employ a variety of tactics to protect against vulnerabilities known asRemote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Cryptanalysis, the study of ciphers and cryptography, can also help organizations strengthen their security defenses and protect their sensitive information from brute force attacks.

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Use stricter password practices

The best protection against password brute force attacks is to make passwords as hard to crack as possible. End users play a key role in protecting their data and that of their organization by using stronger passwords and following strict password best practices. This makes it harder and slower for attackers to guess your passwords, which can cause them to give up.

Best practices for stronger passwords include:

  1. Create strong, multi-character passwords: As a rule of thumb, passwords should be longer than 10 characters and contain uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. This greatly increases the difficulty and time it takes to crack a password from a few hours to several years unless a hacker has a supercomputer handy.
  2. Use Fancy Passphrases – While using more characters in passwords is good practice, some websites may have restrictions on how long a password can be. Therefore, use complex passphrases to prevent attackers from being successful with simple dictionary attacks. Passphrases are multiple words or segments of special characters that make it difficult to guess.
  3. Create rules for creating passwords: Another good password tactic is to shorten words to make them look nonsensical to other people reading them. This can be achieved by removing the vowels or using only the first two letters of words and then forming a meaningful sentence from a series of abbreviated words. For example, shorten the word "hope" to "hp" or "blue" to "bl".
  4. Avoid common passwords: Commonly used passwords such as name, sports team, or just "password" are extremely risky. Hackers know common words or phrases people use in their passwords and implement tactics based on those common words to hack into people's accounts.
  5. Use unique passwords for each account: Credential Stuff lets hackers test passwords used on websites to see if they're used elsewhere. Unfortunately, this is proving very successful as people often reuse their passwords across email accounts, social media profiles, and news websites. It's important to never use the same password for two websites or accounts.
  6. Use Password Managers: A password manager makes it easy for users to create strong, unique passwords for any website they log into. Automatically creates and tracks user logins across multiple websites, allowing the user to access all of their accounts simply by logging into the password manager. With a password manager, users can create long and complex passwords, store them securely and don't risk forgetting, losing or having them stolen.

Better protect user passwords

There's little point in users following strong password best practices if your organization can't protect your data from brute force attacks. The responsibility also falls on the organization to protect and empower its usersnetwork securityThrough tactics like:

  1. Use high encryption rates - Encrypting system passwords with the highest encryption rates available, such as B. 256 bit, limits the chances of success of a brute force attack and makes it more difficult to crack passwords.
  2. Salt the Hash: Salt the Hash is a cryptographic tactic that allows system administrators to strengthen their password hashes. They add a salt (random letters and numbers stored in a separate database) to a password to strengthen and protect it.
  3. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA): When you add authentication to a user's login, you remove the dependency on passwords. With MFA, after a user logs in with their password, they must provide additional proof that they are who they say they are, such as a passport. B. a code sent via SMS or on their device or a fingerprint scan. This can prevent a hacker from gaining access to a user's account or trading system, even if they have the user's credentials.
  4. Limit login attempts - Limiting the number of times a user can re-enter their password credentials reduces the success rate of brute force attacks. Avoiding another login attempt after two or three failed login attempts can deter a would-be attacker, while immediately locking an account after numerous failed login attempts prevents the hacker from repeatedly trying out name combinations, username and password.
  5. Use CAPTCHA to support logins - Adding a CAPTCHA field to the login process can prevent an attacker from using computers to enforce a user account or corporate network. CAPTCHA options involve entering text images that appear on the screen, checking various image boxes, and identifying the objects displayed.
  6. Use an Internet Protocol (IP) blacklist - Implementing a blacklist of IP addresses used in attacks helps protect a corporate network and its users from known attackers. It is important to keep this blacklist up to date to prevent new attacks.
  7. Delete unused accounts – Unused or unmaintained accounts provide an open door for cybercriminals to launch an attack on an organization. Businesses should ensure they regularly delete unused accounts, or ideally delete accounts as soon as employees leave the company to prevent them from being used in a brute force attack. This is especially important for employees with high-level privileges or access rights to sensitive company information.

Provide ongoing security and password support

In addition to user awareness and strong IT security, companies must ensure that systems and software are always up to date and provide continuous support to employees.

  1. Provide password training: It's important for users to understand password security, best practices, and the telltale signs of cyberattacks. They also need training and regular updates to stay abreast of the latest threats and reinforce best practices. Corporate password management tools or vaults also allow users to store complex passwords and eliminate the risk of losing their passwords, which could compromise corporate data.
  2. Monitor networks in real-time: Brute force attacks can be detected through detective activity such as multiple login attempts and logins from new devices or unusual locations. Businesses must constantly monitor their systems and networks for suspicious or unusual behavior and immediately block potentially malicious activity.

What is an encryption key?

Encryption is a cybersecurity tactic that scrambles data so that it appears as a series of random characters. The correct encryption key decrypts the data.

A 128-bit encryption key would require two to the power of 128 to crack, which is impossible for most powerful computers. Most websites and web browsers use it. 256-bit encryption further strengthens data protection to the point that even a powerful computer capable of checking trillions of combinations every second would never crack it. This makes the 256-bit encryption completely immune to brute force attacks.

How Fortinet can help

Fortinet protects companies against brute force attacksfortiwebWeb Application Firewall (WAF). FortiWeb protects mission-critical web applications from advanced attacks targeting known vulnerabilities and zero-day attacks. The solution keeps pace with the rapidly evolving security landscape, ensuring organizations stay secure as new features and updates are released or new application programming interfaces (APIs) are released.

FortiWeb also enables organizations to identify unusual or anomalous behavior and distinguish between malicious and benign behavior. read oursGuide to Preventing Brute Force Attacksvia FortiWeb for more information.

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frequently asked questions

What is a brute force attack?

A brute force attack uses trial and error to guess or crack an account password, user credentials, and encryption keys.

Is a brute force attack illegal?

In the vast majority of cases, a brute force attack is illegal. It is only legal if an organization operates aPenetrationstestagainst a request and you have the written consent of the owner to do so.

How common are brute force attacks?

Brute force attacks are a fairly common method used by cyber criminals. They accounted for 5% of all data breaches in 2017Verizon Research.

How long would it take to crack an eight-digit password?

The longer and more complex a password is, the harder it will be to crack. It is assumed that an eight-digit password can be cracked in a few hours. TOResearch 2019found that any 8-digit password, no matter how complex, could be cracked in as little as 2.5 hours.

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What is brute force attack and its types? ›

A brute force attack is a hacking method that uses trial and error to crack passwords, login credentials, and encryption keys. It is a simple yet reliable tactic for gaining unauthorized access to individual accounts and organizations' systems and networks.

What is a brute force attack quizlet? ›

What is a brute force attack? a password attack that involves using the password-cracking software to mathematically calculate every possible password.

What is brute force attacks example? ›

Simple brute force attacks

These attacks may be effective against systems with weak passwords or simple password policies. For example, this attack can easily and quickly guess simple passwords with common expressions like “name12345” and without a combination of upper- and lower-case letters.

How many types of brute force attacks are there? ›

Types of Brute Force Attacks

Dictionary Attacks. Hybrid Brute Force Attacks. Reverse Brute Force Attacks. Credential Stuffing.

What is the meaning of brute force? ›

adjective. : relying on or achieved through the application of force, effort, or power in usually large amounts instead of more efficient, carefully planned, or precisely directed methods.

What method is a brute force attack ____? ›

A brute-force attack is a trial-and-error method used by application programs to decode login information and encryption keys to use them to gain unauthorized access to systems. Using brute force is an exhaustive effort rather than employing intellectual strategies.

What causes brute force attack? ›

Brute force attacks occur when a bad actor attempts a large amount of combinations on a target. These attacks frequently involve multiple attempts on account passwords with the hopes that one of them will be valid. It's a bit like trying all of the possible combinations on a padlock, but on a much larger scale.

What is another name for brute force attack? ›

A brute force attack (also known as brute force cracking) is the cyberattack equivalent of trying every key on your key ring, and eventually finding the right one.

Is brute force attack a threat? ›

A common threat web developers face is a password-guessing attack known as a brute force attack. A brute-force attack is an attempt to discover a password by systematically trying every possible combination of letters, numbers, and symbols until you discover the one correct combination that works.

What is a simple example for brute force? ›

For example, imagine you have a small padlock with 4 digits, each from 0-9. You forgot your combination, but you don't want to buy another padlock. Since you can't remember any of the digits, you have to use a brute force method to open the lock.

What is a real life example of brute force? ›

In a famous 2015 incident involving the use of brute force, Dunkin' Donuts digital customer accounts were targeted by hackers who used a leaked list of previously stolen credential information and ran brute force algorithms.

What is brute force in cyber crime? ›

A brute force attack is a cybercrime that involves successive repetitive attempts of trying various password combinations to break into a website. Hackers attempt this using the bots that they have installed maliciously in other computers to boost the power required for running such attacks.

How does brute force work? ›

Brute-force attacks work by calculating every possible combination that could make up a password and testing it to see if it is the correct password. As the password's length increases, the amount of time, on average, to find the correct password increases exponentially.

What is brute force name list? ›

Some of the most commonly found passwords in brute force lists include: date of birth, children's names, qwerty, 123456, abcdef123, a123456, abc123, password, asdf, hello, welcome, zxcvbn, Qazwsx, 654321, 123321, 000000, 111111, 987654321, 1q2w3e, 123qwe, qwertyuiop, gfhjkm.

Is brute force a type of malware? ›

Brute force attacks are often used to spread viruses and other malware throughout a system. Depending on the type of malware a hacker uses, they may be able to access sensitive data, such as your contact list and location.

What is the short meaning of brute? ›

noun. a nonhuman creature; beast. a brutal, insensitive, or crude person. the animal qualities, desires, etc., of humankind: Father felt that rough games brought out the brute in us.

What are brute force problems? ›

Brute forcing is generally accepted as the term for solving a problem in a roundabout, time-consuming, uncreative, and inconvenient method. Given the problem "How many outfits can you create with thirteen hats and seven pairs of shoes?", a method involving brute force would be to list all 91 possibilities.

What type of word is brute? ›

Word Type. Brute can be a verb, a noun or an adjective.

What are the signs of a brute force attack? ›

Here are other signs of a brute force attack:
  • Several failed login attempts from the same IP address.
  • Logins with multiple username attempts from the same IP address.
  • Logins for a single account from many different IP addresses.
  • Failed login attempts from alphabetically sequential usernames and passwords.

What are the two types of brute force attacks? ›

Reverse brute force attack: In this type of attack, the hacker tries a commonly used password and attempts to log in with different usernames. Dictionary attack: In this attack, the hacker will enter phrases or well-known words in the dictionary as passwords.

Can brute force attack be detected? ›

You can detect hints of an upcoming attack in increased network activity, access violations, and unusual user behavior. Brute force indicators differ slightly depending on the type of attack and toolset a hacker uses. The good news is you can detect all of them with the same set of cybersecurity tools and practices.

How long is a brute force attack? ›

How Long It Takes to Crack a Password with Brute Force Algorithm
8 characters password10 characters password
Lowercase letters onlyinstantlyinstantly
+ 1 uppercase letterhalf an hour1 month
+ 1 numberone hour6 years
+ 1 special symbolone day50 years

What is brute force attack pros and cons? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is able to hack any password system and encryption key out there. On the other side, brute force attacks are exceedingly slow as they may have to perform every possible combination of characters before they achieve their target.

Where is brute force method used? ›

Therefore, brute-force search is typically used when the problem size is limited, or when there are problem-specific heuristics that can be used to reduce the set of candidate solutions to a manageable size. The method is also used when the simplicity of implementation is more important than speed.

What is a simple sentence for brute? ›

Custer was an idiot and a brute and he deserved his fate. He used brute force to take control. Boxing is a test of skill and technique, rather than brute strength.

What is a sentence for brute strength? ›

Thus we are shown that thoughtfulness is superior to brute strength. It's not about brute strength. I think mixed football teams would work really well, because it is not just about brute strength. Thus we are shown that thoughtfulness is superior to brute strength.

What type of hacker executes an exploit without any background knowledge on what the exploit does and how it is able to compromise systems? ›

A gray hat hacker may expose a security exploit and publicize the findings but may not alert the system owner to take action. Gray hat hackers can provide valuable assessments of security vulnerabilities, although some also may trade this information for personal gain.

Does brute mean beast? ›

noun. 1. : beast. : one who lacks intelligence, sensitivity, or compassion : a brutal person.

What is brute force key? ›

Brute-force attack is an attempt to guess a secret – e.g. password or encryption key – by systematically checking every possible option. A brute force attack against an encryption system attempts to decrypt encrypted data by exhaustively enumerating and trying encryption keys.

What is brute force protection? ›

Brute-force protection safeguards against a single IP address attacking a single user account. When a given IP address tries and fails multiple times to log in as the same user, brute-force protection: Blocks the suspicious IP address from logging in as that user.

What is the difference between brute force and DDoS attack? ›

It can also be a goal of a brute force attacker to steal personal information such as financial information by installing malware. The difference between a brute force attack and a DDoS attack is in the process and method. However, they both have the same goal: to attack a victim, a website, or a server/network.

What is the difference between a brute force attack and a dictionary attack? ›

The main difference between a brute force attack and a dictionary attack is that in a brute force attack, a hacker tries to crack a password using every possible combination of characters, whereas, in a dictionary attack, the hacker tries a list of known or commonly used passwords.

What are brute force risks? ›

Brute-force attacks put user accounts at risk and flood your site with unnecessary traffic. Hackers launch brute-force attacks using widely available tools that utilize wordlists and smart rulesets to intelligently and automatically guess user passwords.

How common are brute force attacks? ›

A brute force attack is a popular cracking method: by some accounts, brute force attacks accounted for five percent of confirmed security breaches. A brute force attack involves 'guessing' username and passwords to gain unauthorized access to a system. Brute force is a simple attack method and has a high success rate.

Why is brute force attack bad? ›

In most cases, a brute force attack is used to steal user credentials – giving unauthorized access to bank accounts, subscriptions, sensitive files, and so on. That makes it illegal.

What is the advantage of brute force attack? ›

The benefit of a brute force attack is that the password will eventually be found, even if it is just a bunch of random characters. In contrast, dictionary attacks and rainbow table attacks could never find such passwords because they won't be in any word list.

What are 4 type of malware attacks? ›

The most common types of malware include viruses, keyloggers, worms, trojans, ransomware / crypto-malware, logic bombs, bots/botnets, adware & spyware, and rootkits.

Is brute force an exploit? ›

Brute Force is a hacking technique used to find out the user credentials by trying out possible credentials. So in brute force attacks, you are not exploiting any vulnerability in the web application.

Which is faster brute force or dictionary attack? ›

A dictionary password attack is more calculated in that it makes use of dictionary words or a select list of likely passwords and uses those to try to crack a user's password. Dictionary password attacks are a lot faster than brute force attacks because it employs more of an understanding of user password behavior.

Is brute force or dictionary attack faster? ›

A dictionary attack will be slower than a brute force attack for formats at high speed of recovery of passwords. The matter is that reading and preparation of passwords from the file of the dictionary demands much more time, than validation of passwords.


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