What is a Brute Force Attack?

Security awareness programs and training programs are critical for businesses. Organizations have to recognize the human element of cybersecurity. 

With that in mind, they should be training on specific types of attacks, one of which is called a brute force attack. 

Details of what a brute force attack is are below, as is relevant information all businesses and employees should be aware of. 

The Basics of a Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is sometimes also called an exhaustive search. 

What this means, in simple terms, is that an attacker tries to guess passwords until they get the correct one. 

Of course, the longer or more complex a password, the harder this is going to be. 

Brute force attacks aren’t a very easy way of operating for cybercriminals unless the passwords your employees are using are weak. 

While they’re time-consuming and require some work at the same time, these types of attacks can be reliable and straightforward. 

A computer does most of the hard work as far as guessing the username and password combinations. 

Once an attacker can access your network unless you have zero-trust security protocols in place, they’re pretty much able to move around within your network freely and it’s a lot harder to do anything about it. 

Different Types of Brute Force Attacks

There are some subtypes of brute force attack that can be used, including:

  • Hybrid Brute Force: The most common type of brute force attack, as silly as it may sound, is called a dictionary attack, where a list of words in a dictionary is used. With other types, commonly used password lists are used. If you have a commonly used password, a bot could break your password within seconds if it appeared on that list. 
  • Credential stuffing: If a cyber attacker can crack your username and password, they can then use that information to access multiple accounts or resources. Password fatigue is widespread, meaning your employees might be using the same combination across the board for nearly all of their accounts. If this password and username combination is compromised, it can create huge trouble. 
  • Reverse force: In a reverse force brute attack, the attackers don’t target a particular username, but instead, they’ll rely on common passwords against possible usernames

Brute force attacks often occur early on in a larger attack chain. An attacker needs to gain entry to whatever their target might be, thus the brute force attacks. 

Then, once they’ve accessed a network, they can use other techniques to increase their attacks. 

If a brute force attack is the entry-level, the specific type of attacks that can be done from there include:

  • Exploitation of ads or activity data, such as rerouting traffic to illegal ad sites or infecting site visitors with malware to track their activity. 
  • Theft of personal data, including financial details or bank account information. If a cyber attacker were to have access to an account, they might be able to steal money or their victim’s identity. 
  • Spreading malware is generally a reason to launch an attack. 
  • There’s something called a distributed denial-of-service attack or a DDoS attack, where a bad actor will launch broad attacks using multiple devices that overpower security systems and defenses. 

What Can You Do?

To defend your business against brute force attacks, you’ll usually need a combination of awareness and training for your employees, paired with some technology tools as well. This is the case when it comes to preventing most attack types. 

The biggest issue of course, is weak passwords. Problems with network administration can also put an organization at risk.

  • Have firm password requirements in place and let your employees know why it’s so important. Passwords should be of a certain length, and for every character or bit of complexity that’s added to a password, the harder it’s going to be to crack. 
  • Set up your systems so that there are a limited number of failed login attempts to lock out a would-be brute force attacker. 
  • Use Captcha, which is a good way to verify if a human is trying to log on or the activity of a robot attacker. 

Finally, you should also use multi-factor authentication in your business or MFA. Multifactor authentication adds another layer of security to every login attempt, which can mean the difference in whether or not a brute force attack is successful. 

You should also always be proactively monitoring for these stealth attacks.

 

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Smith Willas
Smith Willas is a freelance writer, blogger, and digital media journalist. He has a management degree in Supply Chain & Operations Management and Marketing and boasts a wide-ranging background in digital media.

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