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Brute Force Attack: Risks and Mitigation

Published on Feb 01 2023

Brute force attacks have been in use since the dawn of the Internet. A 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon states that hacking, including brute forcing passwords, is still the most common attack method. Over 80% of the time, hacking incidents typically are brute force attacks to gather the passwords and other sensitive information. Brute force attacks are more reliable and effective than other attacks because they rely on automated programs to try out combinations until they find one that works continuously.  

What Is Brute Force Attack?  

A brute force attack is a method used by cybercriminals to gain access to a system or network by trying every combination of characters, words, or phrases to crack encrypted passwords. This can be done using automated software or scripts that repeatedly try different combinations of characters until the correct one is found.  

Cybercriminals can use this method to target various systems, including websites, servers, and personal computers, encrypted files, and even secured messages.  

What Cybercriminals Gain from Brute Force Attacks?  

There are several reasons that hackers use brute force attacks. Some of the most common include: 

  • Stealing personal data and valuables: Cybercriminals use brute force attacks to gain unauthorized access to an organization's personal and financial information. Once inside the system, they get access to passwords, credit card information and other sensitive data.  
  • Spreading malware to cause disruptions: Hackers often use brute force attacks to spread malware throughout a computer's network. Once the malware is in place, the hackers may hold data for ransom and demand a fee for access to be regained. Additionally, viruses may be installed to disrupt the work of the infected system's users by destroying data, erasing programs, and slowing down the systems. 
  • Ruining a website's reputation: Hackers can break into a website and damage its reputation by leaving malicious code damaging its credibility. Furthermore, they may post false information that can harm the business by hacking into one of the website's social media accounts, sharing offensive posts, or making false claims about the website, its products, or services online. 

Types of Brute Force Attacks  

There are different types of brute force attacks criminals can use to gain unauthorized access to a system or network, which include: 

1. Dictionary Attacks

A dictionary attack is a brute force attack that uses a pre-defined list of words to guess passwords. This type of attack has several variations, including password cracking, which is used to guess complex passwords, and wordlist attacks, which are used to guess simple passwords. Password cracking attacks use hundreds or thousands of words from a predefined dictionary file to automatically crack the password.  

2. Hybrid Attack

 A combination of a dictionary attack and a brute force attack, where the attacker uses a pre-defined list of words and then adds numbers, symbols, or other characters to each word.  

3. Reverse Brute Force Attacks

In reverse brute force, cyber criminals begin with a known password obtained through a security breach. They put the password to use by searching through databases containing millions of usernames for a match.  

4. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is an attack that takes advantage of users' lack of password hygiene when users tend to use the same credentials across multiple sites. Attackers stole username/password combinations to access other accounts by trying the known combinations on other websites. 

Best Ways to Protect Against Brute Force Attack  

Brute force attacks are a standard method cyber criminals use to gain unauthorized access to a system or network. To prevent this happening, it is crucial to implement the following security measures: 

  • Increasing password complexity: The longer and more complex the password for a website or account, the harder it is for cyber criminals to guess.  
  • Limiting failed login attempts: Some systems lock out accounts after too many failed attempts. This makes it more difficult for hackers to try passwords continually and gain access.  
  • Encrypting and hashing: Encrypting and hashing are ways to protect passwords from brute-force attacks. Hashing encrypts a password before storing it. Encryption makes it far more difficult for someone to gain unauthorized access to the account. Resetting a password periodically and requiring the user to provide additional details, such as verification of identity or information only the account owner knows, can effectively combat brute-force attacks.  
  • Enacting two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication provides a more secure way of logging into an account by requiring additional information in addition to the password, such as a one-time code sent to a user's phone. This added layer of security helps ensure that only authorized users can access the service. 

Also read: What Is Multifactor Authentication (MFA)? Why We Need It And How Does It Work?  


Brute force attacks severely threaten the security of online systems and accounts. These attacks involve trying multiple combinations of passwords and login credentials to gain unauthorized access. Brute force attacks can be applied at any targets, including websites, email accounts, and other online platforms. 

Being vigilant, monitoring suspicious activities, staying informed about the latest threats, and adopting a proactive approach can significantly enhance a company’s security.  

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