What a Brute Force Attack Is and How to Avoid It
One of the simplest ways hackers access secured services is by brute-forcing user credentials. Many firms’ security postures deteriorated during the epidemic and the shift to remote employment.
Contrary to many other methods employed by malicious actors, Brute force attacks do not rely on flaws present in websites. Instead, these attacks rely on users having flimsy or easy-to-guess passwords to extract credentials.
Brute force attacks are particularly common because of how easy they are to use and how many targets there are. This article covers detailed knowledge of brute force attack and their prevention.
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What Is a Brute Force Attack?
A brute force attack is a cyber-attack in which the perpetrator tries to access user accounts by guessing ID and password combinations using mathematical formulas, a dictionary, or other means. This process is repeated repeatedly on the account until a match is made.
Purpose of Brute Force Attacks
A brute force attack aims to unlock a resource normally off-limits to other users. This could be a password-protected page, an administrative account, or just a list of all the working emails on a particular website.
The entire website may need to be compromised to access a genuine account, allowing hackers to add the site to their network of compromised websites.
Types of Brute Force Attacks
Each brute force attack may employ several strategies to uncover sensitive data. Any of the standard brute force methods listed below could be applied to the intended victim:
- Simple (Traditional) Brute Force Attack
An attacker using this form of brute force must guess numerous passwords to target a particular group of identities. They keep doing this until they find a match. To target specific credentials, an attacker frequently makes many password tries (random values). This process requires creating every feasible set of characters, numerals, and special characters, which takes time and resources.
- Reverse Brute Force Attacks (Password Spraying)
In a credential spraying attack, an attacker uses a selected number of crucial secrets (passcodes) to anticipate numerous potential identities. Essentially, they cycle through their extensive list of user IDs and credentials while spraying the predetermined passwords to see which ones stick.
- Dictionary Attacks
They might even investigate specific people online (looking at their blogs, social media accounts, etc.) to learn more about their interests and see if particular words or phrases emerge in a more specialized dictionary attacks. They can then incorporate these idioms and words into their dictionaries.
- Hybrid Brute Force Attacks
This is an undesirable fusion of two distinct brute-force methods. The hacker, for example, could combine a brute force attack with a dictionary attack. This technique involves choosing frequently used terms from the glossary and swapping them out with random letters or integers. The idea is that using this combined approach rather than either of the individual approaches will increase effectiveness.
- Credential Stuffing Attacks
A cybercriminal regularly “stuffs” known passwords into login input fields on several websites as part of a credential stuffing attack. This process tests widely known passwords compromised or otherwise made public on numerous websites.
Critical Steps of a Brute Force Attack
Following are the critical steps of a brute force attack:
- A brute force attack uses password and username guessing to obtain unauthorized access to a computer. A direct assault with a high possibility of success is brute force.
- Scripts and programs are used as brute-force weapons by some cyber criminals. Such tools attempt various password combinations to avoid authentication procedures. Attackers occasionally try to access online apps by searching for the right session ID. The person or group who launches the brute force attack may do so to infect websites with spyware or disrupt operations.
- However, some attackers still utilize manual brute force attacks. Lists of frequently used passwords and legitimate user credentials obtained from security flaws or the dark web are accessible to intruders. Robots launch systematic attacks on domains, vetting these credential pools and notifying hackers when they gain access.
- Automated tools are frequently employed in straightforward brute-force attacks to forecast all possible default combinations until the right input is found. This attack strategy is outdated but effective for overriding default ones. A brute-force attack’s duration may change.
Brute Force Attack Prevention Best Practices
Even when brute force attacks are successful, making them far more difficult is feasible by taking a few easy measures.
Prevention for Users
- Use Long, Unique Passwords
Longer passwords make brute force exponentially more challenging. Making the passwords more distinctive will help to fend off dictionary assaults. When in doubt, create and store random passwords for each site using a password manager.
- When Feasible, Secure Remote Desktop Connections
Attackers frequently use remote desktops to access the machine. Turn off the remote desktop as little as feasible. Use a secure password when it is on.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication
A brute-force attack becomes much more challenging when a valid password is insufficient to access an account. Users can only access their accounts with 2FA if they have a physical security key or phone.
Prevention for Server Operators
- Use Rate Limiting
Ensure hackers cannot quickly try passwords if the user runs a server. They can become demoralized and give up if the wait is too long.
- Do Not Use Account Lockouts
It might make sense to run a website to lock accounts after several unsuccessful login attempts. However, shutting out numerous accounts enables an attacker to launch a denial of service assault.
To access protected sites, hackers can take advantage of inadequate cybersecurity measures and basic passwords. It is an old, straightforward, and efficient hacking technique. Switching to remote work, obfuscating the old security perimeter, and weakening the traditional security controls have all contributed to increased brute force attacks.