What is a Brute Force Attack
Updated on 06th Apr, 22 57 Views

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What is a Brute Force Attack?

In a brute force attack, hackers try to guess the login information, encryption keys, etc., by using trial and error. They try to guess the information, using all possible combinations. The hackers employ a brute force attack, meaning they attack using extreme force. They try to force their way into private accounts.

Even though a brute force attack is an old way of attacking, it still remains popular with hackers as an effective method of hacking. Depending on how long or complex a password is, it can take anywhere between a few seconds to a few years to crack it.

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Types of Brute Force Attacks

Different types of brute force attacks use different methods to reveal sensitive data. Some of the popular types of brute force attacks are as follows:

  • Simple Brute Force Attacks
  • Dictionary Attacks
  • Hybrid Brute Force Attacks
  • Reverse Brute Force Attacks
  • Credentials Stuffing

Simple Brute Force Attacks

In simple brute force attacks, hackers try to guess your passwords without any help from software or tools. Sometimes, really simple PINs or passwords are revealed by this method. Passwords such as user123 and house1234 are easy targets.

Dictionary Attacks

While dictionary attacks are not necessarily brute force attacks, they are an important type of password-cracking method. In a dictionary attack, hackers target a particular username and then run all possible passwords against it. Some hackers go through unabridged dictionaries and augmented words and mix them with characters and numbers. Dictionary attacks can be tiresome.

Hybrid Brute Force Attacks

Hybrid brute force attacks use logical guesses along with outside means to try to break in. A hybrid brute force attack usually utilizes brute force attacks and dictionary attacks. Hybrid brute force attack is useful in finding combination passwords where common words are mixed with random characters. This includes passwords such as Mumbai1992, Mike987, etc.

Reverse Brute Force Attacks

In a reverse brute force attack, the attack strategy is reversed. An attacker starts with a known password and then goes through millions of usernames to find a match. These known passwords usually come from leaked passwords available online from data breaches.

Credentials Stuffing

When hackers figure out a username–password combo that works, they use it in other websites as well. Many users are known to use the same username–password combo, and become exclusive targets for these attacks.

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Brute Force Attack Tools

Just sitting around trying to guess passwords can take a lot of time, and that is why hackers have developed some tools to help them in the process.

Automated Tools

Automated tools speed up the entire process of guessing passwords, which helps the process of brute force attacks. Automated tools have a rapid-fire guessing feature that helps in creating and attempting every possible password. Automated tools can find one dictionary-word password in one second. Automated tools can work around various setbacks and:

  • Work against computer protocols—SMTP, MySQL, Telnet, and FTP
  • Let hackers get through wireless modems
  • Find weak passwords
  • Decrypt passwords that are in encrypted storage
  • Translate words into leetspeak
  • Run all combinations of characters
  • Perform dictionary attacks

Tools That Compute Pre-Scan Rainbow Tools

Some tools can be used to pre-scan the rainbow tables for all known inputs and outputs of the hash functions. These hash functions are nothing but algorithm-based encryption methods that are used to convert passwords into long series of numbers and letters.

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How to Prevent Brute Force Attacks

There are precautions that can be taken to keep the network safe from brute force attacks:

  • Use Complex Usernames and Passwords: You can protect yourself by using credentials that are not basic. The more complex the alphanumeric combination is, the harder it will be for hackers to crack it.
  • Delete Accounts with High-level Permissions That are Not Used Anymore: Unused accounts are like doors with weak locks that can compromise security. Unmaintained accounts can risk vulnerability; discard them as soon as possible.

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Passive Backend Protection for Passwords

  • High-level of Encryption: Encryption can be increased to make it more difficult for brute force attacks to succeed. System administrators will need to ensure that all passwords in their systems are encrypted with the highest rate possible, like 256-bit encryption. The higher the bits are, the more difficult the passwords will be to crack.
  • Salt the Hash: Administrators will also need to add random strings of letters and numbers, called salt, randomly into password hashes. This string will need to be stored in a different database. It will then have to be retrieved and added to the password before hashing. If you salt the hashes, users with the same passwords will have different hashes.
  • Two-factor Authentication: Administrators can add an intrusion detection system to detect brute force attacks and ask for two-factor authentication. This will require users to add another factor to their login attempt such as a phone, USB key, or biometric scan.
  • Limit Number of Login Attempts: If the number of login attempts is limited, it will make the accounts less susceptible to brute force attacks. If a user is locked out after three attempts, it can cause delays and make the attackers move on to other, easier targets.
  • Account Lock After Too Many Login Attempts: You can put an account lock after too many login attempts. If someone keeps trying to login with different passwords, you can lock the account and ask them to contact support yo unlock the account.
  • Throttle Rate for Repeated Logins: The time between each login can be increased to attempt to hinder the attackers. A timer can delay another login attempt after the first one, and so on. This will give the real-time monitoring team time to detect the threat and start working on it. Some hackers may not find this worth the time and give up.
  • Require Captcha After Failed Login Attempts: Manual verification can stop robots from carrying out a brute force attack. Captcha can be used as an aid. It comes in different forms such as checkbox, retyping text from an image, or identifying objects in pictures.
  • IP Denylist: IP denylist can be used to block known attackers. This list needs to be kept updated as more IPs are known.

Active IT Support Protections for Passwords

  • Password Education: How users behave is crucial to password security. Users need to be educated on the best practices and tools for managing passwords. There are password managers available that help users keep track of difficult passwords in an encrypted vault. Users tend to choose convenience over safety, and this tool can help make safety convenient for users.
  • Monitor Accounts in Real Time: We can keep a track of any unusual activity such as strange login locations, too many login attempts, etc. Once potentially dangerous trends are identified, we can take steps to block them in real time.

Brute Force Attacks vs Dictionary Attacks

ParameterBrute Force AttackDictionary Attack
DefinitionHackers try to find the password by trying every possible combination.Hackers try to find the password from a list of options.
AttemptsThe maximum number of characters and the length decide the number of attempts.The possible combinations are based on likely values and do not include far-off guesses. This can be based on patterns, key information, etc.
TimeThe time taken is much greater, but so is the coverage.The time taken is reduced because the combinations are restricted, this also reduces the coverage.
ExampleIf there is a combination lock that requires three digits, we will try all combinations such as 1-2-3, 1-2-4, etc.The name of the user may be known, and if it is a combination lock, we can start by using the user’s birthday and then move on to their family members’ and friends’ birthdays.

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Conclusion

Online safety is crucial in this digital era. Brute force attacks are one of those things that users have to be careful of as they can compromise the users’ security online. All types of brute force attacks can be prevented if some precautions are taken.

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