Top 5 Types of Brute Force Attacks: What You Need to Know

Definition

A brute force attack is a method used by cybercriminals to gain access to accounts or systems by systematically trying every possible combination of passwords or encryption keys until the correct one is found. It’s a trial-and-error approach that, while time-consuming, can be very effective if not properly guarded against.

Common Targets and Impacts

Brute force attacks often target login credentials, encryption keys, or any data secured by passwords. The impact can range from unauthorized access to sensitive information to complete system breaches.

Simple Brute Force Attacks

Manual Attempts

A simple brute force attack involves a hacker manually trying different combinations of usernames and passwords. This method is less sophisticated but can be successful if passwords are weak or commonly used.

Characteristics and Examples

Simple brute force attacks are characterized by their reliance on human effort without the aid of automated tools. An example might be a hacker guessing passwords based on common words or phrases.

Dictionary Attacks

How They Work

A dictionary attack utilizes a pre-arranged list of possible passwords, often derived from common words and phrases. The attacker systematically enters each word from the list as the password.

Common Dictionaries Used

Dictionaries used in these attacks often include:

  • Common password lists: “123456,” “password,” “admin”
  • Words from a specific language
  • Common phrases and variations

Hybrid Brute Force Attacks

Combining Methods

Hybrid brute force attacks blend dictionary attacks with manual guessing. Attackers start with a dictionary and then add variations, such as appending numbers or symbols to common words.

Effectiveness and Examples

These attacks are more effective because they cover a broader range of possibilities. For instance, trying “password1” or “admin!23” instead of just “password” or “admin”.

Reverse Brute Force Attacks

Definition and Process

In a reverse brute force attack, the attacker knows a password but needs to find the correct username. They use the known password and try it across many different usernames.

Typical Targets

These attacks often target systems where specific passwords are known or commonly used across multiple accounts, such as “admin” or “password123”.

Credential Stuffing

Using Stolen Credentials

Credential stuffing involves using lists of previously stolen usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access. Hackers rely on the fact that many people reuse passwords across multiple sites.

How It Differs from Other Attacks

Unlike other brute force attacks, credential stuffing uses known credentials rather than guessing. It’s highly effective when users have poor password hygiene.

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