What is a Brute Force Attack? (Definition, Types, and How to Spot One)

What is a Brute Force Attack?

A brute force attack is a method of cracking passwords, login credentials, and encryption keys that relies on trial and error. It's a simple but effective method for getting illegal access to individual accounts as well as systems and networks of businesses. Until they uncover the proper login information, the hacker attempts various usernames and passwords, frequently utilizing a computer to try a wide variety of combinations.

The term "brute force" refers to attackers who seek to acquire access to user accounts by applying excessive force. Despite the fact that brute force assaults are an ancient hacking approach, they have been tried and proven and are still a popular tactic among hackers.

Different Types of Brute Force Attacks

Attackers can employ a variety of brute force attack tactics to obtain unauthorized access and steal user data.

Simple Brute-Force Attacks

A basic brute force assault happens when a hacker manually attempts to guess a user's login credentials without the aid of software. Standard password combinations or PIN codes are often used.

Because many users still use weak passwords like "password123" or "1234" or practice bad password hygiene by using the same password for several websites, these assaults are straightforward. Hackers can also guess passwords by doing minor reconnaissance work on an individual's prospective password, such as their favorite sports team's name.

Dictionary Attacks

A dictionary attack is a type of brute force hacking in which the attacker chooses a target and then compares potential passwords to the user's username. Although the assault technique is not strictly a brute force attack, it can play a significant role in a bad actor's password cracking process.

Hackers scanning through dictionaries and modifying words with special characters and numbers gave the assault the term "dictionary attack." When compared to newer, more effective attack methods, this form of attack is often time-consuming and has a poor likelihood of success.

Hybrid Brute Force Attacks

When a hacker combines a dictionary attack approach with a simple brute force assault, it's called a hybrid brute force attack. It starts with a hacker knowing a username, followed by a dictionary attack and brute force methods to find an account login combination.

To determine the proper password, the attacker starts with a list of possible words and then tries various character, letter, and number combinations. Hackers can use this method to find passwords like "SanDiego123" or "Rover2020," which mix common or popular phrases with numbers, years, or arbitrary characters.

Reverse Brute Force Attacks

An attacker uses a known password to start a reverse brute force assault, which is usually found through a network breach. They utilize the password to search through millions of users for a matching login credential. Attackers may also search a database of users for a match using a frequently used weak password, such as "Password123."

Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing takes advantage of users' poor password habits. Attackers gather stolen username and password combinations and try them on other websites to see if they can obtain access to other user accounts. If consumers use the same login and password combination or reuse passwords across several accounts and social media sites, this strategy will work.

Brute Force Attacks: How to Spot Them

Monitoring failed login attempt is a significant indicator that a malicious actor is attempting to brute force their way into your system. If you see a lot of unsuccessful login attempts, you should be cautious. Numerous unsuccessful login attempts from the same IP address, as well as the usage of multiple usernames from the same IP address, are red flags to look out for.

Other indicators include many unfamiliar IP addresses attempting to connect to a single account unsuccessfully, an odd numerical or alphabetical pattern of failed logins, and multiple login attempts in a short period of time.

It's also conceivable that these intrusions will add you to a botnet that will target your website with denial-of-service assaults. Aside from the aforementioned, a brute force assault might be preceded by spam, malware, or phishing attempts.

If your network service provider sends you an email stating that a user from an unknown location has entered into your system, update all passwords and credentials right away.