Brute Force Attacks – Definition, Types, & How to Prevent It

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On December 14th, 2023
Reading Time 11 Minutes Reading

When it comes to breaking into users’ accounts, cybercriminals try every possible combination they could. In cyber security, this attempt is commonly referred to as a brute-force attack. This attack pattern has become popular to extract sensitive information from individual as well as business accounts.

So, without further ado, let’s understand what this attack is, its types, and safety measures for prevention.

What are Brute Force Attacks in Cyber Security?

A brute force attack employs a systematic method of hit and trial to determine login information, credentials, and encryption keys. The attacker attempts many username and password combinations before making a successful guess. Also, it can take anywhere from a few seconds to many years to crack a password, depending on its length and complexity.

Once they are successful, the actor can enter the system as the authorized user and stay there until they are discovered. They take advantage of this opportunity to move laterally, set up back doors, learn more about the system in preparation for the next attacks, and, of course, steal data.

As long as there have been passwords, brute-force assaults have existed. Due to the shift to remote work, they are not only still popular but also becoming more common. Although it’s an old attack strategy, hackers still favor it because it works. 

Understand the Brute Force Attack Process

First, the attacker prepares a list of usernames and password combinations using mathematical methods, by referring to a dictionary, or other techniques. Then, bombard the account with login attempts until a match is found. Finally, after multiple attempts they become successful.

Also, scripts and programs are used as brute-force weapons by some online criminals. Such tools experiment with a wide range of password permutations to get around authentication procedures. 

In addition, attackers may try to enter online apps by searching for the right session ID. The individual or group who launches the brute force attack may do so to fulfill certain intension(s).

What Are The Motives Behind Brute Force Attacks in Cyber Security?

Though it could take attackers months or even years to successfully crack a password or encryption key, the payoffs are huge. Most of the time, the main intention is to get financial benefits.

But, the main question is, how and why do they do it? 

1. Exploit Ads or Activity Data

A hacker may use a brute force attack on one or more websites in order to make money via commissions from advertising. Typical techniques include: 

  • Placing spammy advertisements on well-known websites, allows the attacker to profit each time a visitor clicks or views an advertisement.
  • Redirecting visitors from a legal website to a site that is being paid to advertise.
  • Using malicious software, such as spyware, to infect a website and its users. Without the user’s permission, the acquired data is subsequently sold to advertisers.

2. Steal Sensitive Data

Accessing a user’s accounts can yield a wealth of information, including private financial and banking information and medical records. A person’s account can be accessed by an attacker, who can then use the information to launch more extensive attacks, steal money, sell the victim’s credentials to others, or spoof their identity. 

Through corporate data breaches, wherein attackers gain access to organizations’ sensitive databases, personal information and login credentials can also be taken.

3. Spread Malware

Attacks using brute force are frequently impersonal. A hacker might only wish to cause mayhem and display their nefarious abilities. They might accomplish this by disseminating malware using email or Short Message Service (SMS) messages, hiding malware on a fake website that impersonates a trustworthy website, or leading website users to malicious websites. 

The attacker can then get access to related systems and networks by infecting a user’s computer with malware and launching more extensive cyberattacks against businesses.

4. Hijack Systems

When criminal actors use a network of connected devices known as a botnet to undertake larger attacks, brute force attacks can be a factor. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is often used in this situation to overwhelm the target’s security measures and systems.

5. Ruin Business Reputation

To steal data from an organization, brute force assaults are frequently performed, which not only costs them money but also seriously harms their reputation. Websites can also be the victim of attacks that flood them with vulgar or offensive material and images, damaging their reputation and possibly forcing their removal.

Above all, there are several brute force attacks present which you should be aware of.

Types of Brute Force Attacks in Cyber Security

Here are some of the ways that hackers use to break into the system.

1. Simple Brute Force Attack

These attacks guess passwords using automation and scripting. Typical brute force attacks generate a few hundred estimates per second. Simple passwords, such as those containing well-known phrases like “123456” or “password,” or those lacking a mix of capital and lowercase letters, can be cracked in a matter of minutes. However, there is the potential to greatly speed up that speed. A researcher utilized a computer cluster to attempt up to 350 billion passwords per second back in 2012.

2. Dictionary Attack

A dictionary attack combines popular words and expressions. Dictionary attacks used to only employ numbers and words from a dictionary, but now they also use passwords that have already been compromised in previous data breaches. These compromised passwords can be purchased on the dark web or even acquired for free on the public internet.

There is dictionary software that may substitute comparable characters to produce new hypotheses. The software, for instance, will change a lowercase “l” to a capital “I” or an uppercase “a” to a “@” symbol. Only the combinations that are most likely to succeed are tested by the software.

3. Credential Stuffing Attack

Over 8.5 billion usernames and passwords have been exposed over time. On the dark web, criminals trade stolen credentials and exploit them for everything from spam to account takeovers.

These stolen login credentials are used in a credential-stuffing assault across numerous websites. Because people frequently reuse their login names and passwords, credential stuffing is effective. As a result, if a hacker manages to access a person’s account with an electric company, there is a high likelihood that they will also have access to that person’s online bank account.

Although gaming, media, and retail companies are frequently targeted, these attacks are frequently conducted across all industries.

4. Reverse Brute Force Attack

An attacker typically launches a brute force attack using a known key, such as an account number or login. The matching password is then discovered using automation technologies. An attacker who knows the password must locate the username or account number in a reverse brute-force assault.

5. Hybrid Brute Force Attack

A dictionary attack and a brute force attack are combined to create a hybrid brute force attack. A string of numbers, usually four, is frequently added to the end of a password by users. The first number is either a 1 or a 2, as those four numbers are typically a year that was meaningful to them, such as their birth or graduation.

Attackers employ a dictionary attack to supply the words in a reverse brute force attack before automating a brute force attack on the last component—the four numbers. This method is more effective than employing brute force or dictionary assault alone.

types of brute force attacks in cyber security

6. Rainbow Table Attack – A pre-calculated table for reversing cryptographic hash capabilities is known as a rainbow table. It is quite likely to be used to calculate a capacity up to a certain length with a specified set of characters.

7. Password Spraying

Traditional brute force attacks in cyber security aim to guess a single account’s password. In contrast, password spraying aims to use one generic password across numerous accounts. By using this method, lockout regulations that cap the number of password tries are avoided. 

8. Botnets

A scaled-up brute force attack is a numbers game that necessitates a lot of computational power. Attackers can avoid the expense and difficulty of maintaining their own systems by using networks of hijacked machines to carry out the attack algorithm. The usage of botnets also provides an additional level of anonymity. Any brute force assault can be used in conjunction with botnets.

What Tools Hackers Use to Carry Out a Brute Force Attack?

On the open internet, there are various free tools that can be used to combat brute force attacks in cyber security. Here are a few examples:

  • Aircrack-ng is a free utility that uses brute force to crack wifi passwords. It may be used with any NIC that supports raw monitoring mode and includes a WEP/WPA/WPA2-PSK cracker and analysis tools to launch attacks on Wi-Fi 802.11.
  • DaveGrohl is a Mac OS X program for brute-forcing passwords that supports dictionary attacks. It offers a distributed mode that lets an attacker run attacks on the same password hash from different computers.
  • Hashcat: It is a free password-cracking program that uses the CPU. It works with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux-based systems and is effective against many different types of assaults, including simple brute force, dictionary, and hybrid attacks.
  • THC Hydra: It decrypts network authentication passwords. Against more than 30 protocols, including HTTPS, FTP, and Telnet, dictionary attacks are conducted.
  • The free password-cracking program John the Ripper was created for Unix platforms. It is currently accessible on 15 other operating systems, including DOS, Windows, and OpenVMS. The hashing algorithm used in a password is immediately detected by John the Ripper, allowing it to be tested against encrypted password storage.
  • L0phtCrack: It uses a dictionary, hybrid, rainbow table, and simple brute force techniques to break Windows passwords.
  • An RDP brute-forcing tool called NL Brute has been accessible on the dark web at least since 2016.
  • Ophcrack is a free, open-source utility for breaking Windows passwords. It employs rainbow tables and LM hashes.
  • Rainbow Crack: To utilize when launching an attack, Rainbow Crack generates rainbow tables. The pre-computed nature of rainbow tables speeds up attack execution.

Follow The Best Practices to Prevent Brute Force Attacks in Cyber Security

The better way to stay safe from such attacks is to adopt prevention best practices. Here is a complete list of metrics you can follow to avoid falling victim to brute-force attacks.

1. Use Strong Passwords

Encourage people to create their own passwords rather than utilizing the standard ones. The FBI suggests using multiple keywords and unique passwords with at least 15 digits. It is believed that long passwords made comprised of random letters, numbers, and symbols are safer and easier to remember than pure gibberish. You are less likely to write them down or use them to secure several accounts as a result.

We offer distinctive passwords since consumers prefer to select the simplest choice when generating account credentials. Users typically establish bad (non-secure) passwords as a result, or they reuse passwords across multiple domains. Businesses must implement a password policy and strict password security regulations.

2. Limit Login Attempts

Numerous websites, especially those running on WordPress, naturally permit an infinite number of login attempts. Installing a plugin to limit the number of connection attempts for your domain is a good idea if you are a website administrator in order to fend off brute-force attacks. By employing such extensions, you may specify how many trials you want website visitors to get. If they make more attempts than allowed, their IP addresses will be barred from the site for a considerable amount of time.

3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)


With two-factor or MFA, your accounts will be more secure and will be safe from brute force attacks in cyber security. Before being given access to the system, a user must authenticate themselves when signing into a server. The user will be prompted to confirm their identity after 2FA is enabled before being allowed to sign in to their email account. Before being allowed access to the network, they must enter a special code given to a mobile number to verify their identity.

4. Put Proactive Threat Hunting to Use

Threat hunting can reveal the kinds of threats that conventional security systems may be unable to detect. Even though it appears to be using legal credentials, a threat hunter can identify a brute force attack if it has successfully entered the system. Thus, deploy managed security operation center (SOC) services in place to enhance threat monitoring.


Q- What is a brute force attack?

Using this attack, one can attempt every password or encryption key combination until the right one is discovered. It’s a methodical process for breaking into a system, account, or data without authorization.

Q- How is the attack carried out?

This attack involves the attacker trying every conceivable combination of encryption keys or passwords consistently until they find the right one. The underlying premise of this method is that one of the attempted password combinations is the correct one.

Q- What are common targets of brute force attacks?

These attacks are frequently employed against login pages, encryption keys, password-protected accounts, and weak authentication schemes. Admin panels, email accounts, and online bank accounts are also common targets.

Q- How can I protect against brute force attacks?

Limit login attempts, employ MFA, and establish strong password policies. Always deploy account lockout techniques, so that after a predetermined number of unsuccessful login attempts, an account is temporarily disabled.