What is brute force attack and how to prevent them

what is brute force attack and how to prevent them

In Brute Force Attack, a hacker does not stop until the correct combination of a targeted password is not found. However, it is a time-consuming task but it is a type of well-known cryptographic hack.

Before we find out how to prevent a Brute Force Attack, let’s first understand what exactly is it and how does it work? After all, you need to know everything about your foe before you can build up your defenses.

What is a brute force attack?

A Brute Force Attack is quite basically a cryptographic hack sometimes also referred to as an exhaustive search. This “HACK” relies on guessing numerous combinations of a targeted password until it gets the correct password, YOUR password.

Think of it as an expeditious trial and error process of guessing your password, thereby making it a time-consuming task. This does not mean your data is safe because if your password is weak, it’s going to take merely a few seconds and hardly any effort to crack it.

These days, we all have multiple accounts across multiple platforms having many passwords. It’s quite apparent to use a few simple, basic and conspicuous passwords repeatedly. This results in the password being easily hacked and attacked, giving the attacker complete access to your profile and your account.

Why is a brute force attack carried out?

The purpose of a brute force attack is quite simple. Your data. Your precious passwords, bank details, online information, and every credential.

The password is like the first line of defense protecting your credentials from miscreants. Stealing your password gives the attacker all access needed to your data and eventually controls all your information.

The scale of damage an attacker who has managed to crack your password is unfathomable. This usually leads to financial frauds, identity thefts, security breaches, online criminal activities, and the worst of it all, blackmailing. Imagine all these shady practices happening behind your back without your knowledge, but it carries your name!

How does a brute force attack work?

Most cyber attackers carry out brute force attacks by using bots or algorithms to do their dirty work for them. These bots make it easy for hackers to crack your password and gain access to your data. They often have a list of real or commonly used passwords and allot their bots to attack websites. It runs through the list and cracks your password.

How does a brute force attack look like?

The very first sign that you’ve been a victim of a brute force attack is that you will not be able to login successfully multiple times even after entering the correct username or password. This should immediately ring some alarm bells as it’s the first sign that you might have been attacked. The other sign is that multiple IP addresses unsuccessfully attempting to sign in to a single account.

Ok, but that’s just one kind of attack, are there others?

Types of Brute Force Attack: 

Oh, that’s not the end of the tunnel, for there are multiple types of brute force attacks, each with its own goals and objectives. These attacks work differently, but the end motive is the same, to gain access to your account by cracking your password.

Employing different techniques and systems, the attacker tries to attain your password. What are the different types of brute force attacks the hacker might use? Each attack is different and uses a different process so let’s explore what they are and how exactly they work?

Simple Brute Force Attack

A simple brute force attack as the name suggests is the very basic form of attack where the attacker tries to simply GUESS your credentials. This guesswork is done with the use of any bot, algorithm, or software tool.

Although less accurate it does however lead to revealing your password or username. While it’s time-consuming to guess passwords, having a simple easy to predict password makes it unchallenging for the hacker.

Hybrid Brute Force Attack

In a hybrid brute force attack, the hacker merges external means with their logical password predictions in order to get your real password. The attacker uses a combination of words from the dictionary and arbitrary characters to crack your password. It’s like adding another filter of special characters to zero in on the actual password of the victim.

Dictionary Attack

One of the most common types of brute force attacks is sometimes referred to as the dictionary attack. How does it work? Well, the answer is in the name! It uses words in the dictionary to crack passwords.

Let’s say, for example, you have chosen “123456789” as your email password; a hyper brute force attack bot would be able to crack it in just a matter of seconds. This type of attack combines both aspects of the dictionary and a basic brute force attack.

The Hybrid brute force attack uses a list of passwords, and rather than testing every password; the bot will create and attempt small variations or combinations of the words in the password list.

Reverse Brute Force Attack

Working on the principle of reverse engineering, an algorithm or a bot does not target your username. By using frequently adopted groups of passwords, the reverse brute force attack tries an existing list of usernames till it gets the right one.

In contrast to other types of brute force attacks where the attacker may use phishing or social engineering to get the password, in reverse brute force attack, the hacker already has the password, key, or code but needs a different identifier like a username or account number.

Credential Stuffing

This type of attack happens when the hacker knows your username and password pairing. It’s like you’ve been leaving a trail yourself. How? Well, by having the same predictable and generic password for every application or website. It becomes easy to guess your password if you’re using the password everywhere.

Oh no! How Can I Prevent It? 

Well, now that you’re aware of the threat that exists, let’s help you prevent this. After all, there’s nothing more precious than your data in today’s world. If there’s one thing you’ve comprehended till now is the fact that the attacker relies and depends heavily on a WEAK password.

In other words, you’re making the process easier for the attacker yourself by having an evident and weak password. As a precaution, you start by doing the following:

Modify your .htaccess file

You can control the login access by simply modifying your .htaccess file, this process is called IP whitelist. It may sound complicated by you can do this in just 3 simple steps.

Create a hidden password file.

Create a login and password and add it to your hidden password file.

Finally, just alter your website’s .htaccess file in order to just require your hidden password whenever you’re logging in.

By doing this you’re protecting the integrity of your password and log in.

Try having a lengthy password.

The longer your password, the stronger it is and hence harder to crack by the attacker. Having long passwords creates many problems for the attacker as it becomes difficult for the bot to crack it.

Imagine having a short password like “love” “date”; it would be hacked in less than one second. Compare that to a long and lengthy password; the bot would take way more time to reach the right password. Therefore, it’s always advisable that your password be long and lengthy.

Make your password more complex.

Have something complicated to your passwords, like a special character or a unique number. What we mean by complex is that it should not be tricky for you to remember but increase the complication for the bot or algorithm to crack your password.

By merely adding unique characters or symbols such as ‘#’ ‘!’ ‘$’ ‘^’ and so, you’re strengthening your password by making it complicated. Additionally, you can also use caps for specific characters or alphabets.

This increases the permutations and variations, making it much more difficult to attack.

To put it very basically, having a password made of around 15-17 characters long with just numbers is as difficult to crack as a complex 6-8 character password, which includes special characters and symbols.

Don’t exceed your login attempts.

You might’ve come across the message “You’ve exceeded your maximum password attempts,” this is a layer of security that prevents attackers from getting access to your data. But be careful not to exceed the number of tries or attempts.

You should not exceed the attempts because as soon as you fail to log in within the specified attempts, your user data or account in the database is marked as a password expired or invalid. This makes your account or profile vulnerable to attackers. So keep in mind to not exceed your login attempts.

Have a two-factor authentication

If possible, have two-factor authentication. It’s like having two-level security. Having a two-factor authentication re-enforces your security, making it harder for anyone trying to gain access using your credentials illegally.

Use Captcha.

It might not seem very pleasant in the beginning, but it helps using Captcha. It fools the algorithm and ensures that it’s not a bot trying to get in.

To conclude, brute force attacks are a significant threat to your data and information. But with the right steps and pre-emptive measures, you can keep yourself and your data safe from the clutches of hackers and attackers.

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