A brute force attack is a hacking technique for account takeover that involves a trial and error method to guess user credentials in order to gain access to sensitive data. Unlike other types of attacks, brute force attacks do not require any technical or intellectual strategy, but rely only on repeated attempts to guess the correct login information.

Definition of Brute Force Attack

Types of Brute Force Attacks

Attackers can gain unauthorized access and steal user data using various brute force methods. These methods include:

  • A simple brute force attack occurs when a hacker tries to guess a user's login credentials manually, without using any software. This can be done by trying standard password combinations or personal identification number (PIN) codes. Unfortunately, many people still use weak passwords like "password123" or "1234" and use the same password for multiple websites. Hackers can also easily guess passwords by doing minimal reconnaissance work, such as finding out the individual's favorite sports team.
  • A dictionary attack is a type of hacking technique where the attacker tries to guess a target's password by testing a list of commonly used passwords against their username. 
  • A hybrid brute force attack is a method employed by hackers where they combine a dictionary attack with a simple brute force attack. In this type of attack, the hacker first obtains a username and then uses a combination of dictionary and brute force techniques to discover the account login credentials.
  • In a reverse brute force attack, the attacker starts by using a password that they have obtained through a network breach. They then use this password to try and find a matching login credential from a vast list of millions of usernames. 
  • Credential stuffing is a type of cyber-attack that takes advantage of users' poor password management practices. The attackers collect username and password combinations that they have obtained from other sources, and then attempt to use them on different websites to gain unauthorized access to additional user accounts. This method is successful when people use the same password for multiple accounts or use weak passwords that are easy to guess. A substantial 75% of employees admit to using the same passwords for both their work and personal accounts.

How to Protect Sensitive Data from Brute Force Attacks? 

To prevent brute force attacks from being successful, the simplest and first precaution is to choose strong passwords and follow password security best practices. This includes changing passwords regularly and avoiding repetitive passwords. 

Additionally, it's highly recommended to use MFA as a second layer of defense to prevent malicious actors from accessing sensitive data. For instance, 87% of firms that have over 10,000 employees use MFA.

Developers who manage authorization systems can take further measures to enhance security. These measures include locking out IP addresses that have generated too many failed login attempts and incorporating a delay in their password-checking software.

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