Warning icon

New location coming soon: Zurich, Switzerland

What Is A Brute Force Attack? — Brute Force Attack Definition

What Is A Brute Force Attack? — Brute Force Attack Definition

Brute Force Definition 

In giving our brute force definition, we’d try to be as simplistic and relatable as possible. Brute force attack also referred to by some as brute force cracking, is a hacking tactic where hackers try to gain access to a computer server by trying a combination of possible passwords till they get the right one.

Okay, we said our brute force definition was going to be relatable- let’s try this: Imagine that your friend is in an emergency situation and you need to access a file on his PC to save him. Easy right? Except your friend is quite the privacy enthusiast and you don’t have a clue what his password is.

What are you going to do? You’re going to try your best to guess what password he would have used. Could it be his dog’s name? His girlfriend’s name? Birthdate? His favorite place? You keep trying all possible password entries till you get the right one and boom- you can now access his PC.

If you’ve ever successfully guessed someone else’s password after some number of failed entries, congratulations! You’re a brute force attacker-now how’s that for a relatable brute force definition? 

It may seem like a very stressful and brain-tasking hacking method until you realize that experienced hackers let computers do the work for them, making it easy to access the right password in minutes.

Types of Brute Force Attacks  

Now we know what a brute force attack is, let’s delve into the types of brute force attacks.

  • The Dictionary Attack: This is the simplest form of brute force attack. The hacker simply has a list of possible passwords and tries them one after another till he gets the correct one. 

This brute force type is apparently one of the oldest and certainly the most basic. Many brute force attackers would not subscribe to this method in hacking a highly protected server in today’s world.

  • The Exhaustive Key Search: The most common passwords today are a combination of letters, numbers and characters. In the exhaustive key search brute force method, the computer exhausts every possible character combination and tries them all till it gets the right one.
  • Credential Recycling: This brute force attack uses the passwords that were once used to hack into a system to brute force other systems passwords.
  • The reverse brute force attack: As the name suggests, this brute force method works in the reverse. Instead of attempting to brute force a password, it picks a common password and brute forces the username instead.

Motives behind Brute Force Attacks  

Most brute force attackers, like every other hacker, attack a computer server to obtain some kind of information that they aren’t authorized to access. Other common reasons brute force attacks happen are:

  • To run encryption downgrade attacks: Modern server security systems encrypt certain passwords and files to avoid unauthorized access to them. Despite this server security measure, experts in brute force attacks can use brute force to attack the computer server security system by running encryption downgrades.
  • To look for hidden web pages: Brute force attackers can use brute force to look for a vulnerable hidden web page to exploit. A hidden web page is a valid website that doesn’t have a connection to any address.

Brute force attackers are not limited to only a few methods or objectives for carrying out brute force attacks. These brute force attackers continue exploring more intelligent ways of carrying on brute force activities without being detected. 

Internet users, technicians, server services providers and all stakeholders invested in the internet should as such, remain unrelenting in their pursuit to boost cybersecurity. It’s important for server hosting services especially those offering unmanaged server services to invest heavily in cybersecurity and work hand in hand with cybersecurity agencies to project new fool-proof methods for checkmating brute force attacks.

How to protect from Brute Force Attacks 

To beef up your server security management and protect your computer server/system from brute force attacks, you can try some of these methods: 

  • The multiple-factor authentication method: 

It’s quite easier for an attacker to breach a system that has just one layer of security access than it is to breach a system with two or more layers of protection. There are different security methods to use and you don’t have to stick with just one. 

For example, if you use two-factor authentication, when a brute force attacker successfully hacks your password, he happily inserts it only to find out that there’s a code he needs to crack too. That’s a frustrating thing for every attacker.

  • Password length: It’s generally easier to attack a 4 digit password than it is to attack a 16- digit password. The longer the password, the harder it is to hack. To give any hacker a difficult time, ensure that your passwords are as long as possible.
  • Password strength: The length of a password, while a contributing factor to the password strength is not one and the same thing with it. Strong passwords don’t combine digits or alphabets alone. They are a combination of numbers, letters, characters, etc. to make the password too complex for an attacker to guess.
  • Login attempts: Remember when we said that brute force attackers continue trying possible passwords till they get the right one? Their strength lies in the number of attempts they have to try a password. When you limit the number of times a user is allowed to attempt a password, you’re shooting a brute force attacker right in the groins.
  • Monitoring: The best method to beef up security is to constantly employ methods to monitor possible breaches and nip them in the bud before they can even have access to a computer system.