A brute force attack is a type of cyberattack that uses automated software (as well as offline means) to guess the correct combination of credentials, such as usernames and passwords, until it finds the correct one.
Brute force attacks are a significant threat to organizations in 2023, and it’s essential to protect your network against them. As you’ve discovered in the comprehensive post above:
Brute force attacks are prevalent, thanks to their effectiveness and low cost.
Threat actors have an awfully easy time tabling such attacks, as they can use many techniques and tools, including automated scripts and password-cracking software.
Implementing password best practices and policies, such as two-factor authentication, is essential for protecting your network against brute force attacks.
You must monitor your network for suspicious activity, such as unusual logins from different IP addresses or frequent failed login attempts.
Implementing security solutions, such as firewalls, IDSs, and antivirus software, are necessary.
MSSPs can help you protect your network against brute force attacks by monitoring and managing your network, implementing security solutions, providing regular security assessments, and educating your workforce.
As technology continues to evolve and go mainstream, it means more and more people and organizations possess many accounts and have many passwords. For instance, an average American internet user has 150 online accounts that require password protection. Unfortunately, most people use a few simple passwords for their multiple accounts, leaving them vulnerable to brute-force attacks.
Brute force attacks are one of the most common types of cyberattacks. They involve an attacker attempting to guess a user’s password or other credentials by trying different combinations until they find the correct one. In fact, of data breaches resulting from hacking, 80% involve brute force or stolen/lost credentials. And it’s easy to see why: brute force attacks are simple, inexpensive, and effective.
But the big question remains, what does it take to protect your organization against brute force attacks in 2023? And what is the role of managed security service providers (MSSPs) in enhancing safety and security against such attacks? This comprehensive blog delves into what a brute force attack is, how it works, how to prevent the attacks, and how an MSSP can help.
What is a Brute Force Attack?
A brute force attack is a type of cyberattack that uses automated software (as well as offline means) to guess the correct combination of credentials, such as usernames and passwords, until it finds the correct one. The attacker will use a list of commonly used words or phrases or even randomly generated strings of characters to gain access to an account or system. This attack can be used to gain access to a user’s account or even an entire network.
How Does a Brute Force Attack Work? Popular Types and Tools
A brute force attack works at its core by trying every possible combination of characters until the correct one is found. But it runs deeper than that, as there are different types of brute force attacks and tools used to carry them out.
Types of Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks range from simple to complex ones like credential stuffing. Here’s a closer look:
Simple brute force attacks: These attacks target people with weak passwords. They don’t follow any logic and use a list of commonly used words or phrases, such as “password” or “123456”, to gain access to an account.
Dictionary attacks: As the name suggests, this type of attack uses a string of words or phrases found in the dictionary, including proper nouns and other common phrases.
Hybrid brute force attacks: Here, the attacker applies external logic to determine a password most likely to succeed. It combines simple and dictionary attacks. It uses words, phrases, and characters to guess the correct credentials.
Reverse brute force attacks: Here, the attacker must have obtained data belonging to a network of users. So they use a common password or diverse passwords against many possible usernames to access the accounts.
Credential stuffing: This attack is similar to reverse brute force attacks but uses automated software to guess credentials. The attacker will use a list of stolen usernames and passwords to access multiple accounts.
Tools Used for Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks are carried out using automated software, such as:
John the Ripper: This free, open-source password-cracking tool can detect weak passwords. It can crack passwords on Windows, Linux, and MacOS systems.
Hydra: This is a password-cracking tool that can be used to crack passwords on Windows, Linux, and MacOS systems. It supports multiple protocols, such as SSH, FTP, and Telnet.
THC Hydra: This open-source password-cracking tool can crack passwords on Windows, Linux, and MacOS systems. Like Hydra, it supports multiple protocols, including SSH, FTP, and Telnet.
Aircrack-ng: Stuffed with a dictionary of widely used passwords, attackers often use this tool to breach wireless networks across Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android devices.
How to Protect Against Brute Force Attacks in 2023
As brute force attacks become more sophisticated, it is vital to protect yourself from them. Here are some tips for protecting against brute force attacks in 2023:
1. Use Strong Password Practices
Implementing strong password practices is the easiest way to outsmart brute-force attackers. According to Microsoft, a strong password is at least 12 characters long, but 14 or more is better. Here are a few more password best practices to keep in mind:
Strong, multicharacter passwords. Use upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Remember using at least 12 characters increases the difficulty and time it takes for a brute-force attacker to crack the password, even with a supercomputer.
Elaborate passphrases. If the website or account has restrictions on the length of the password, it helps to use complex passphrases – multiple words with special characters that are virtually impossible to guess.
Unique passwords for every account. It’s vital to use different passwords for each account. This way, if one of your accounts is compromised, the attacker will not be able to access all of your other accounts.
Password managers. You’re probably wondering how will I create and remember unique passwords for my 150 accounts. Password managers are an excellent way to store and manage all your passwords in one secure place. They generate strong passwords for you, so you don’t have to worry about remembering them.
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of security that requires users to provide two pieces of information when logging into an account. This could be a code sent to your phone or an email in addition to your password. This makes it much harder for attackers to access your account, even if they have the correct password.
3. Monitor Your Network Continuously
It’s critical to keep an eye on your network 24/7/365 and look out for any suspicious activity. If you notice anything unusual, such as a sudden increase in traffic or attempts to access your network, you can take steps to block the attacker. Here are a few more anomalies that should prompt you to take immediate action:
Unusual logins from different IP addresses.
Frequent failed login attempts.
Unexpected changes to user accounts or settings.
4. Implement Security Solutions
Several security solutions can help protect your network against brute-force attacks, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and antivirus software. These solutions can detect and block malicious traffic before it reaches your network.
Firewalls. Firewalls are the first line of defense against brute force attacks. They can detect and block malicious traffic before it reaches your network.
Intrusion detection systems (IDS). IDSs are designed to detect suspicious activity on your network, such as unauthorized access attempts or data exfiltration.
Antivirus software. Antivirus software is designed to detect and remove malicious code from your system, such as malware, ransomware, and viruses.
The Role of MSSPs in Protecting Your Network Against Brute Force Attacks
Managed security services providers (MSSPs) are an excellent way to protect your network against brute force attacks in 2023. Below, we quickly highlight some of MSSPs’ valuable services that come in handy in thwarting brute force attacks.
Monitoring and managing your network. MSSPs can monitor your network 24/7 and detect any suspicious activity that could indicate a brute-force attack.
Implementing security solutions. MSSPs can help you implement the right security solutions to protect your network against brute force attacks, such as firewalls, IDSs, and antivirus software.
Providing regular security assessments. MSSPs can provide regular security assessments to identify any potential vulnerabilities in your network and help you take steps to address them.
Educating your workforce. Security awareness training (SAT) is essential for any organization. MSSPs can provide SAT to your employees and help them understand the importance of cybersecurity and how to protect themselves against brute force attacks.
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