Brute force is a type of cyberattack when threat actors try to exploit the old, but still reliable method of password hijacking. They simply try out every possible combination from the databases of stolen login credentials. Obviously, finding a match means success for them. These days, crooks automated this process, with the use of bots and large DBs from the Darknet.
Such a method of trial and error can crack not only passwords but also encryption keys. Guessing proved itself to be a reliable method of getting access to users’ accounts, networks, and organizations’ systems. Because of its simple and brutal nature, it got its name of brute force attack.
What Are The Various Types Of Brute Force Attacks
Although the brute force method might be simple, there are actually many different types of how crooks can perform it:
- Credential Stuffing. When threat actors have one of the victim’s credentials sets, they will try to use them on the other accounts. Users often apply the same credentials to different accounts – just to make remembering them easier. This type of brute force attack bases itself on poor password hygiene. If there’s more than one account that corresponds credentials set, crooks can try them for other places as well;
- Reverse Brute Force Attacks. This type of brute force attack when threat actors have passwords to a certain account, but lack usernames. They will use large pools of stolen usernames to get a match with the user’s login credential username;
- Hybrid Brute Force Attacks. Hybrid type comes into view once crooks are completely naught of information about their victim. Using the dictionaries we mentioned before, they’re trying to get into any possible account. As you can guess, this method does not have outstanding efficiency;
- Dictionary Attacks. May be considered one of the most time-consuming brute-force attacks. Though it is not a technical method as threat actors need to manually go through pages of dictionaries to find the right word. Nowadays more technically sophisticated methods replaced this one;
- Simple Brute Force Attacks. The simple method of threat actors trying to guess credentials by simple guessing, without the use of dictionaries. Usually, they will start with the simplest variants like “123456” or “qwerty”. Yes, even these days some people still use these passwords or usernames.
Why Threat Actors Do Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks can sometimes be pretty time-consuming, so the final goal of it should be rewarding enough. Several goals can be in mind for threat actors doing the brute force attack. Here are the most popular ones:
- Bring damage to a company’s or website’s reputation. Usually brute force attacks are done in order to steal valuable and sensitive information from organizations or companies. Still, threat actors can inflict significant damage to the reputational side of the target not only causing it financial losses.
Threat actors can post obscene and offensive texts, images thus force the takedown of the targeted website and bringing the needed damage to the company or organization that runs this website;
- Take control of a system for further cyber threats activity. Threat actors may do brute force attacks to help conduct further cyber attacks like creating botnet of compromised accounts and then launch DDoS attacks aiming to disrupt target’s security defenses and systems;
- Conduct malware attacks. If threat actors gain access to the victim’s account they can send malicious attachments to the contact list in the target’s account and so make a successful spread of malware. Alternatively, they can use SMS to create malicious links and redirect recipients to websites they control. It can also be useful for malware installation;
- Steal valuable and sensitive information. If a threat actor manages to get unauthorized access to various kinds of sensitive and valuable information like financial details, medical records, etc, and use it to their own advantage in spoofing the victim’s identity, sell the stolen information, steal victim’s money or they can use the obtained information for further cyber attacks campaigns;
- Advertisement scamming. In case of a successfull attack on a website, crooks may use the opportunity of malvertising. This supposes traffic routing back from the legitimate website to illegally filled with ads website, infecting the targeted website itself or its users with different kinds of malware or place a spam email on targeted website for visitors to click on it and thus earning for threat actors profit;
How To Prevent Brute Force Attacks
You can reduce the risk of falling victim to a brute force attack by following the next steps simple and useful tips on how to prevent brute force attacks:
- Using Web Application Firewalls (WAFs). Besides setting a limit on how many times a request from outside sources can be made to a specific URL it also will block attempts of any strange vulnerability scanning tools to scan your network for weaknesses.
In addition to this functionality WAFs prevent DoS attacks that can significantly exhaust server resources;
- Using Unique Login URLs. A step which not necessarily prevents brute force attacks but which can deter those threat actors who will not be unwilling to spend more than needed time trying to break through this security measure.
Because creating different login URLs for each user ensures threat actors would waste great amount of time and the thing which not many of them are not going to deal with;
- Disabling Root SSH Logins. See your sshd_config file and enable “PermitRootLogin no” together with “DenyUsers root” options.
Brute force attacks are made possible on the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol and via the root user. The settings will ensure that no root user could be accessed via SSH;
- Using CAPTCHAs. This rather long term stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” and help to block bots or spam exploiting websites.
Its hard for automated computer programs to complete this mechanism tasks but easy for humans to click on a specific area on a webpage or spot patterns;
- Using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). If you have 2FA it means you need to provide additional verification before you will be granted access, for example, to your email account. It can be code sent to your phone that you need as an additional security measure to type in;
- Monitoring IP addresses. Set a monitoring and alerts of any login attempts that come from an unusual ip address and block them. This could be especially useful if some of your employees work remotely and you need to set what specified IP address or ranges can’t reach your website;
- Using Strong Passwords. And finally the most important rule to keep to is to always have long complex passwords. People might actually not realize but so much of your cybersecurity wellness depends on having proper passwords in place.
Always remember when creating passwords don’t forget about both cases of letters, numbers and different characters.
And in order not to worry that you might forget such a long and complex password use password manager; there are plenty of them to choose from.