Brute Force Attack Meaning:How Users Can Strengthen Passwords Against Brute Force Attacks

Brute force


In cryptography, a brute-force attack consists of an attacker submitting many passwords or passphrases with the hope of eventually guessing a combination correctly. The attacker systematically checks all possible passwords and passphrases until the correct one is found

A brute force attack uses trial-and-error to guess login info, encryption keys, or find a hidden web page. Hackers work through all possible combinations hoping to guess correctly.

These attacks are done by ‘brute force’ meaning they use excessive forceful attempts to try and ‘force’ their way into your private account(s).

This is an old attack method, but it’s still effective and popular with hackers. Because depending on the length and complexity of the password, cracking it can take anywhere from a few seconds to many years.

Types of Brute Force Attacks

Each brute force attack can use different methods to uncover your sensitive data. You might be exposed to any of the following popular brute force methods:

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

Simple brute force attacks: hackers attempt to logically guess your credentials — completely unassisted from software tools or other means. These can reveal extremely simple passwords and PINs. For example, a password that is set as “guest12345”.

Dictionary attacks: in a standard attack, a hacker chooses a target and runs possible passwords against that username. These are known as dictionary attacks. Dictionary attacks are the most basic tool in brute force attacks. While not necessarily being brute force attacks in themselves, these are often used as an important component for password cracking. Some hackers run through unabridged dictionaries and augment words with special characters and numerals or use special dictionaries of words, but this type of sequential attack is cumbersome.

Hybrid brute force attacks: these hackers blend outside means with their logical guesses to attempt a break-in. A hybrid attack usually mixes dictionary and brute force attacks. These attacks are used to figure out combo passwords that mix common words with random characters. A brute force attack example of this nature would include passwords such as NewYork1993 or Spike1234.

Reverse brute force attacks: just as the name implies, a reverse brute force attack reverses the attack strategy by starting with a known password. Then hackers search millions of usernames until they find a match. Many of these criminals start with leaked passwords that are available online from existing data breaches.

Credential stuffing: if a hacker has a username-password combo that works for one website, they’ll try it in tons of others as well. Since users have been known to reuse login info across many websites, they are the exclusive targets of an attack like this.

How Users Can Strengthen Passwords Against Brute Force Attacks

As a user, you can do a lot to support your protection in the digital world. The best defense against password attacks is ensuring that your passwords are as strong as they can be.

Brute force attacks rely on time to crack your password. So, your goal is to make sure your password slows down these attacks as much as possible, because if it takes too long for the breach to be worthwhile… most hackers will give up and move on.

Here are a few ways you can strength passwords against brute attacks:

Longer passwords with varied character types. When possible, users should choose 10-character passwords that include symbols or numerals. Doing so creates 171.3 quintillion (1.71 x 1020) possibilities. Using a GPU processor that tries 10.3 billion hashes per second, cracking the password would take approximately 526 years. Although, a supercomputer could crack it within a few weeks. By this logic, including more characters makes your password even harder to solve.

Elaborate passphrases. Not all sites accept such long passwords, which means you should choose complex passphrases rather than single words. Dictionary attacks are built specifically for single word phrases and make a breach nearly effortless. Passphrases — passwords composed of multiple words or segments — should be sprinkled with extra characters and special character types.

Create rules for building your passwords. The best passwords are those you can remember but won’t make sense to anyone else reading them. When taking the passphrase route, consider using truncated words, like replacing “wood” with “wd” to create a string that makes sense only to you. Other examples might include dropping vowels or using only the first two letters of each word.

Stay away from frequently used passwords. It’s important to avoid the most common passwords and to change them frequently.

Use unique passwords for every site you use. To avoid being a victim of credential stuffing, you should never reuse a password. If you want to take your security up a notch, use a different username for every site as well. You can keep other accounts from getting compromised if one of yours is breached.

Use a password manager. Installing a password manager automates creating and keeping track of your online login info. These allow you to access all your accounts by first logging into the password manager. You can then create extremely long and complex passwords for all the sites you visit, store them safely, and you only have to remember the one primary password.

If you’re wondering, “how long would my password take to crack,” you can test passphrase strength at


Security analysts use the THC-Hydra tool to identify vulnerabilities in client systems. Hydra quickly runs through a large number of password combinations, either simple brute force or dictionary-based. It can attack more than 50 protocols and multiple operating systems. Hydra is an open platform; the security community and attackers constantly develop new modules.Hydra brute force attack

Hydra brute force attack

Other top brute force tools are:

  • Aircrack-ng—can be used on Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. It uses a dictionary of widely used passwords to breach wireless networks.
  • John the Ripper—runs on 15 different platforms including Unix, Windows, and OpenVMS. Tries all possible combinations using a dictionary of possible passwords.
  • L0phtCrack—a tool for cracking Windows passwords. It uses rainbow tables, dictionaries, and multiprocessor algorithms.
  • Hashcat—works on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. Can perform simple brute force, rule-based, and hybrid attacks.
  • DaveGrohl—an open-source tool for cracking Mac OS. Can be distributed across multiple computers.
  • Ncrack—a tool for cracking network authentication. It can be used on Windows, Linux, and BSD.



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How to Prevent Brute Force Attacks

As brute force attacks are not a vulnerability per se, keeping the software up to date is not enough to protect yourself. Here are few common methods to prevent these attacks:

1Use Strong Passwords

Brute force relies on weak passwords. A strong password contains the following traits:

Unique: You should avoid reusing passwords, as websites get compromised and passwords will get cracked. By reusing passwords, attackers can more easily target you using your compromised credentials on other websites.

Long: Longer passwords mean more possible combinations before reaching it. Five-character passwords are easy to crack on pretty much any computer in a few seconds, 10 characters would take a few years, and 20 characters would take nearly forever.

Hard to guess: Snippets of information like your own name or the city where you live might make a password easier to remember, but it’s also easier to guess if someone gains any information about you. The same goes for common text, such as “12345” or “password,” which are commonly used in credentials, since they are easy to remember.

With these characteristics applied, brute force attempts will not be successful in guessing your password, and therefore you should be safe against them.

The same principles apply to recovery questions: If your recovery questions are weak, but your password is strong, it is easy for attackers to reset your password instead of guessing it.

2Restrict Access to Authentication URLs

A requirement for brute force attacks is to send credentials. If you change the login page URL — for example, moving from /wp-login.php to /mysite-login — this can be enough to stop most automated and bulk tools.

Unfortunately, this suggestion won’t work on advanced attacks if the link is guessable or if it’s visible on the page, but it’s an easy way to prevent automated attacks.

3Limit Login Attempts

Brute force attacks rely on attempting multiple passwords and accounts. By restricting login attempts to a small amount per user, attackers won’t be able to try more than a few passwords.

A common way to restrict login attempts is to temporarily ban an IP from logging in after five failed login attempts, where subsequent attempts at a login will be blocked.


Captchas are a good way of preventing bots and automated tools from doing actions on your website by giving them challenges before they even can attempt a login. As the challenge is designed to be solved by humans, robots have a hard time passing them which blocks their attacks.

5Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

2FA adds another layer of security to your login form. Once you login with appropriate credentials, you will need to enter a code which can only be accessed by you, such as an email or a unique code generated by an authentication tool.

This additional layer prevents anyone who has successfully obtained your credentials from accessing your account without a secondary piece of authentication.

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Author: refuge_2020

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