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What is Brute Force Attack?

In the area of cybercrime, a brute force attack is defined as a series of repeated attempts to hack into a website using multiple password combinations. This attempt is made with vigor by the hackers, who also make use of bots that they have maliciously placed on other machines in order to increase the computational capacity necessary to carry out such attacks.

A brute force attack is a method of cracking passwords, login credentials, and encryption keys that relies on trial and error. Brute force attacks are straightforward and reliable. Attackers utilize a machine to perform the work for them, such as trying multiple usernames and passwords until they discover one that works. The greatest defense is to catch and defeat a brute force attack in progress: once attackers get access to the network, they're considerably tougher to catch.

Brute force attacks vary from other cracking methods in that they do not use an intellectual approach; instead, they just attempt different combinations of characters until the perfect combination is found. This is similar to a criminal attempting to break into a combination safe by trying every conceivable number combination until the safe unlocks.

The longer the password, the more possible combinations must be evaluated. A brute force attack can take a long time to complete, be difficult to undertake if data obfuscation is utilized, and even be impossible at times. If the password is weak, however, it may just take a few seconds and little work to crack. For attackers, weak passwords are like shooting fish in a bucket, which is why every business should have a strong password policy that applies to all users and systems.

How Does Brute Force Attack Work?

Brute-force attacks can be used against an application or on a password value that has been hashed or encrypted. Because most websites have cybersecurity policies in place that prevent automated brute-forcing, an attacker's brute-forcing stolen passwords is considerably more prevalent. An attacker will use automation software to run a list of usernames and passwords against the application until a match is discovered if the attack is launched against an application. If no further safeguards are in place, the attacker gets access to the user's account once a match is detected.

The "guessing" of a user's password from its encrypted or hashed version is a more typical brute-force attack. To decode an encrypted password, a private key is used. An attacker who has access to this key can either decrypt the password or use tools to "guess" the value of the key. Passwords are frequently hashed, which is a one-way encryption method that cannot be reversed. Instead, the attacker utilizes a dictionary list of probable passwords, hashes them, and compares the value to the stolen hashed password value to determine if the password was successfully brute-forced.

An attacker now has access to user accounts after cracking passwords. For many reasons, hackers seek out user credentials. They might be looking to steal money or get access to a user's personally identifying information (PII). An attacker may exploit an account to infect the system with malicious code or deliver harmful files to other users. If an attacker obtains administrator account credentials, the attacker may be able to hijack server traffic, inject advertisements into website content, steal extra data from internal network databases, or infect key infrastructure with malware. The amount of harm caused by brute-force attack is determined by the stolen account's authorization level and the type of application.

What are Types of Brute Force Attacks?

Brute-force attacks are defined as "guessing" user credentials using every possible combination of characters until a match is obtained. Hackers, on the other hand, employ a range of brute-forcing techniques to achieve the best results. Corporations must understand each brute-force kind to devise tactics to counteract them.

What are Types of Brute Force Attacks

Figure 1. What are Types of Brute Force Attacks?

The following are types of brute-force attacks:

1. Credential Stuffing

On the dark web, stolen credentials are traded between criminal actors and utilized for everything from spam to account takeovers.

These stolen login combinations are used in a credential stuffing attack against a variety of websites. Because individuals prefer to reuse their login names and passwords, credential stuffing works. For example, if a hacker gains access to a person's electric company account, there's a good chance those same credentials would also grant access to that person's online bank account.

2. Dictionary Attacks

A collection of dictionary terms, phrases, and frequent passwords retrieved from the internet is used in many brute-force attacks. Dictionary attacks use a computerized dictionary or a wordlist to target increasingly obscure passwords. Because many hackers will give up if it takes too long, using a more unusual phrase for your password might keep you secure from basic brute force hacking attacks. Using more obscure or sophisticated terms, on the other hand, will not protect you from dictionary attacks.

3. Reverse Brute Force Attacks

Reverse brute force attacks work in the other direction, starting with a common or well-known password and then attempting to brute force the username.Data breach passwords occasionally leak online, and when they do, they're frequently used to start reverse attacks.

Many users overlook the security of their login ID, making brute force username hacking more lucrative than it appears.

4. Simple Brute Force Attacks

To guess passwords, a simple brute force attack uses automation and scripts. Every second, brute force attacks make a few hundred guesses. Simple passwords that don't blend upper and lowercase letters or use popular phrases like 123456 or password may be cracked in minutes. However, there is the possibility to boost that speed by orders of magnitude.

5. Hybrid Brute Force Attacks

A dictionary attack and a brute force attack are combined in a hybrid brute force attack. People frequently add a series of digits at the end of their password, usually four. The first number is generally a 1 or a 2 since the first four digits are usually a year that was meaningful to them, such as birth or graduation.

In a reverse brute force attack, attackers employ a dictionary attack to generate the words, then automate a brute force attack on the last four digits. This is a more efficient method than relying just on a dictionary or brute-force attack.

What are Brute Force Attack Tools?

Automated software that employs computation to systematically examine password combinations until the correct one is determined is frequently used to assist an attacker. To run through various combinations and possibilities that are difficult or impossible to compute by a human alone, a brute force password cracking program is necessary. Among the most well-known brute force attack tools are:

  • Aircrack-ng: Aircrack-ng is a comprehensive set of criteria for assessing the security of WiFi networks. It focuses on several aspects of WiFi security, including
  • Monitoring: Capture packets and export of data to text files for analysis by third-party software.
  • Packet injection attacks include replay attacks, deauthentication, and the creation of bogus access points, among other things.
  • Checking the capabilities of WiFi cards and drivers (capture and injection)
  • WEP and WPA PSK Cracking (WPA 1 and 2)
  • Rainbow Crack: Rainbow Crack is another famous brute-force password cracking program. It creates rainbow tables that may be used throughout the attack. It differs from other traditional brute-forcing tools in this sense. Rainbow tables have already been calculated. It aids in lowering the attack's execution time. This tool is still being worked on. It's available for both Windows and Linux, and it's compatible with the most recent versions of both systems.
  • L0phtCrack: L0phtCrack is well-known for cracking Windows passwords. Dictionary attacks, brute force attacks, hybrid attacks, and rainbow tables are some of the methods it employs. Scheduling, hash extraction from 64-bit Windows versions, multiprocessor methods, and network monitoring and decoding are among L0phtcrack's most prominent features. This program may be used to crack the password of a Windows machine.
  • John the Ripper: Another tool that needs no introduction is John the Ripper. For a long time, it has been a popular choice for brute-force attacks. Originally designed for Unix computers, this free password cracking program is now available for Windows. It was later ported to more platforms by the creators. Unix, Windows, DOS, BeOS, and OpenVMS are among the fifteen systems now supported. This may be used to detect weak passwords or to crack passwords to compromise authentication.
  • Hashcat: Hashcat is a tool for recovering passwords. It supports numerous Hashcat methods, including MD4, MD5, SHA-family, LM hashes, and Unix Crypt formats, and it runs on Linux, OS X, and Windows. Hashcat comes in two flavors:
    1. A password recovery program that is dependent on the CPU.
    1. A password recovery tool based on the graphics processing unit (GPU).
  • Ophcrack: Another brute force attack tool that may be used to hack Windows passwords is this one. Rainbow tables are once again employed to crack window passwords using LM hashes. It is a free and open-source program that can crack the Windows password in a short amount of time. With this type of tool, passwords with less than 14 characters are more likely to be cracked quickly. Rainbow tables that go along with this tool may also be downloaded.
  • THC Hydra: Hydra is one of the most well-known tools for cracking passwords on Linux and Windows/Cygwin. Solaris, FreeBSD/OpenBSD, QNX (Blackberry 10), and macOS are also supported. It supports AFP, HTTP-FORM-GET, HTTP-GET, HTTP-FORM-POST, HTTP-HEAD, HTTP-PROXY, and more protocols. Hydra is a command-line and graphical application that comes pre-installed on Kali Linux. The brute-forcing approach may be used to break a single or a list of usernames/passwords.

How can Brute-force Attack Tools Improve Cybersecurity?

Brute Force Attack Tools can be used for Threat Hunting. Threat hunting can reveal forms of attacks that traditional security systems may overlook. Even if a brute force attack was used to gain access to the system, a threat hunter can identify the attack even if it is disguised as genuine credentials.

What is Way to Protect Against Brute-force Attacks?

There are several techniques for stopping or preventing brute force attacks.

A robust password policy is the most evident. Strong passwords should be enforced by every online application or public server. Standard user accounts, for example, must have at least eight characters, a number, capital and lowercase letters, and a special character. Furthermore, servers should mandate password updates regularly.

Let's look into some more options for preventing a brute force attack.

  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and two-factor authentication (2FA) require you to use at least two distinct forms of credentials to log in. A security question, for example, can be one of these criteria. A brute force attack is less likely to succeed when users must provide more than one form of authentication, such as a password and a fingerprint or a password and a one-time security token.

  2. Use Stronger Passwords: You can do a lot as a user to help safeguard yourself in the digital environment. Keeping your passwords as strong as possible is the greatest security against password attacks. To crack your password, brute force attacks rely on the passing time. So, your objective is to make sure your password slows down these attempts as much as possible because most hackers will give up and move on if the breach takes too long to be useful. Here are a few techniques to make your passwords more resistant to brute-force attacks:

    • Passwords that are long and contain a variety of character types
    • Passes with a lot more information.
    • Make a set of guidelines for creating your passwords.
    • Passwords that are commonly used should be avoided.
    • Use different passwords for each site you visit.
    • Invest in a password manager.
  1. Check Server Logs: Although brute-force attacks are difficult to halt, they are easy to identify since each failed login attempt is recorded in your Web server logs as an HTTP 401 status code. It's critical to keep an eye on your log files for brute-force attempts, especially the mixed 200 status codes that indicate the attacker has discovered a legitimate password. Here are some signs of a brute-force assault or other type of account abuse:
    • Several unsuccessful login attempts came from the same IP address.
    • Multiple username logins from the same IP address.
    • Many distinct IP addresses are used to log in to a single account.
    • Excessive bandwidth use and utilization from single-use.
    • Login attempts failed because the usernames or passwords were not in alphabetical order.
    • Logins using someone else's mail or IRC client's referring URL.
    • Referring URLs with the type http://user:[email protected]/login.htm> that contains the username and password.
    • Referring URLs of known password-sharing sites if guarding an adult Web site.
    • Suspicious passwords, such as ownsyou (ownzyou), washere (wazhere), zealots, hacksyou, and the like, are routinely used by hackers.
  1. Limit Logins to a Specified IP Address: A single IP address attacking a single user account should be protected by brute-force protection. When the same IP address attempts and fails to log in as the same user several times (for example, ten times), brute-force protection. If you only allow access from a specific IP address or range, brute force attackers will have to work extra hard to get past that barrier and acquire access. It's like building a security fence around your most sensitive information, and anyone who doesn't come from the correct IP address is denied access. You may do this by assigning a static IP address to a remote access port. You can use a VPN instead of a static IP address if you don't have one. One disadvantage is that it may not be suited for all applications.

Is a Brute Force Attack Illegal?

A brute force attack is only legal if you're testing the security of a system responsibly and with the owner's express agreement.

In most circumstances, a brute force attack is used to steal user credentials, allowing illegal access to bank accounts, subscriptions, confidential files, and other sensitive information. That makes it a crime.

By itself, brute force attacks aren't unlawful. The purpose is what makes brute force attacks illegal. Hackers almost always have a bad intent: they want to obtain illegal access, steal data, or make money in some other way. Brute force attacks are prohibited in certain circumstances.

What are Examples of Brute-force Attacks?

Brute force attacks occur often, and there are several high-profile cases to consider. Many past and continuing attacks are likely unknown to us, but here are a few that have surfaced in recent years:

  • The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) was hacked in August 2020, and over 11,000 accounts for the CRA and other government-related services were compromised as a consequence of a credential stuffing attack.
  • Dunkin' Donuts: The iconic coffee business has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in retaliation for a 2015 incident in which the chain's mobile app and website were used to steal money through credential stuffing and brute force attacks.
  • Alibaba: Millions of accounts were hit by a major brute force attack on the renowned eCommerce site in 2016.
  • Magento: In March 2018, Magento had to issue a warning to users, stating that brute force attacks have compromised up to 1,000 admin panels.
  • Northern Irish Parliament: In March of this year, brute force attackers gained access to the accounts of many members of the Northern Irish Parliament.
  • Westminster Parliament: In 2017, a previous attack on Westminster Parliament resulted in the compromising of up to 90 email accounts.
  • Firefox: Early in 2018, it was discovered that Firefox's master password feature is vulnerable to brute-force attacks. This indicates that numerous users' credentials may have been exposed during the last nine years.

What is the Difference Between Dictionary and Brute Force Attack?

Definition of Brute Force Attack; "An attack wherein the cybercriminals use an automated program to try vast quantities of potential combinations in order to decode passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), and other types of login data."

Dictionary Attack; "A sort of brute force attack in which an attacker uses a "dictionary list" of popular terms and phrases used by organizations and individuals to try to breach a password-protected security system."

Brute ForceDictionary Attack
Make use of a variety of key combinations.Use the list of known passwords
A wide variety of key combinations are available.Limited to certain common keys
The length and strength of the password determine the amount of time it takes.The amount of time it takes is determined by the size of the dictionary.
example of possible keys: hello,HELLo,Eello,keLLO,FELlo,..Example of common passwords: iloveyou,12345,54321,ilovemom,ILOVEYOU
When the key length is short, it is easier to crack.If the password is a common one, it is simple to crack.