Brute Force Attacks: Don’t Let Hackers Push Their Way In

by | May 23, 2024

Brute force attacks continue to be a challenge for many businesses. Many assume they’re protected just because they’re using a long password. However, 93% of brute force attacks involve passwords with 8 or more characters. The issue is less the length and more that people continue to use similarly easy-to-remember passwords. Even if the security system is strong, if the password is too simple, detecting a threat that gains access too quickly is more challenging.

What Is a Brute Force Attack?

A brute force attack involves trial-and-error to guess login credentials and encryption keys, allowing hackers to access accounts and business systems. Automation is normally used to test thousands of character combinations in a short period. Although this method is one of the oldest types of cyberattacks, it continues to find success against older systems and weaker security.

Types of Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks come in several forms, each varying approach to cracking passwords or encryption keys. Here are the six most common types:

Simple Brute Force Attack: This is the most basic type, where every possible combination of characters is tried until the correct one is found. Since it’s time-consuming, it is most effective against short and simple passwords.

Dictionary Attack: Unlike trying every possible combination, dictionary attacks use a list of pre-determined words, including common passwords and phrases. This method is faster than simple brute force attacks because it skips harder-to-guess randomized passwords.

Hybrid Attack: Hybrid attacks combine simple brute force and dictionary attacks. They start with a list of common passwords and then try variations by adding numbers, special characters, or changing letter cases. 

Password Spraying: With password spraying, the attacker tests a common password against multiple accounts. If it doesn’t work, they’ll test a new one against all those accounts. That can be difficult to detect as it appears closer to a regular failed login than other types.

Credential Stuffing: Similar to a reverse brute force attack, credential stuffing uses previously stolen login credentials. This method only works against people who reuse their passwords, a common cybersecurity issue even in the tech industry.

Each type of brute force attack exploits different weaknesses in password management. That highlights the importance of strong, unique passwords and advanced security measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add extra layers of defense.

How Brute Force Attacks Bypass Security Systems

Brute force attacks bypass security systems by exploiting the weakest link in cybersecurity: human nature. People often choose weak or predictable passwords to make the login process simpler. As a result, passwords become much easier to guess, especially when using automation tools that can test thousands of them per minute. 

Hackers also use local unsecured Wi-Fi networks in their brute force attacks. This lets them bypass some types of protection, as the systems view the login attempts as commonly internal instead of from an outside source. These attacks are also commonly carried out during off-peak hours or mixed in with normal traffic to hide the activity.

Depending on the scale of the brute force attack, they can also overwhelm authentication systems. If they can’t scale with a large enough attack, they may be unable to keep up with all the attempts. Even without account access, it can still be enough to bog down systems and services enough for them to stop working temporarily.

Most Brute Force Attacks Use Automation

While there are many strategies behind brute force attacks, most rely on automation, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows hackers to test thousands of passwords in bulk with little effort. On the flip side, that kind of activity triggers many types of security systems, making it ineffective if it is too obvious. 

The Goal of Brute Force Attacks

The main goal of brute force attacks is to gain unauthorized access to systems and data. That allows them to steal critical information, manipulate data, or install malicious software. This unauthorized access can lead to severe consequences for businesses, including data breaches, financial loss, legal issues, and damage to reputation.

Beyond theft, brute force attacks can also disrupt business services. In those situations, the goal is to make a competitor seem less reliable, which can lead customers to seek out the alternative. Regardless of the intent, brute force attacks are a dangerous threat to any business that isn’t prepared.

Steps to Protect Your Business From Brute Force Attacks

Protecting your business from brute force attacks involves implementing robust security measures and fostering a culture of security awareness among your employees. Here are detailed strategies to effectively safeguard your systems:

Step 1: Enforce Strong Password Policies

Require the use of strong, complex passwords that combine different letters, numbers, and special characters. Passphrasescan also be an easy-to-remember alternative, but they must be long enough to be effective. Create policies requiring password changes at regular intervals and prevent reusing old passwords.

Step 2: Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA adds an extra layer of securityby requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a system. That can include something they know (a password), something they have (a mobile app code), and something they are (a fingerprint). Even if a password is stolen, MFA can prevent access.

Step 3: Limit Login Attempts

Configure lockouts that limit the number of failed login attempts allowed before temporarily disabling the account. Thishelps prevent automated tools from performing password attempts by locking them out after too many tries.

Step 4: Deploy CAPTCHA

Adding CAPTCHAs can stop automated bots from accessing login pages, as these challenges typically require human interaction to solve. While some bots can solve basic CAPTCHAs, they can normally tell when a human user is authenticating.

Step 5: Monitor for Suspicious Activities

Use monitoring tools that track logins and flag unusual activities, such as accessing from unfamiliar locations or multiple failed login attempts. Use alerts to notify system administrators of such events, enabling quick response and potential lock-down of affected accounts.

Step 6: Educate Employees

Regularly conduct security awareness trainingto inform your employees about the risks of weak passwords and the importance of security practices. This can help them recognize phishing attempts and understand the importance of using secure networks for work. 

Step 7: Keep Systems and Software Updated

Ensure all systems and software are updatedwith the latest security patches. Hackers often exploit zero-day vulnerabilities in outdated systems, so maintaining updated software is crucial in defending against brute force attacks.

By integrating these security practices, businesses can significantly enhance their defenses against brute force attacks. These measures prevent unauthorized access and help build a more security-aware culture.

What ITonDemand Does to Prevent Brute Force Attacks

ITonDemand deploys a suite of cybersecurity tools that can help prevent brute force attacks. SentinelOne is used in tandem with other solutions for real-time analysis, detection, and response to potential attacks. DUO offers a wide range of authentication options, allowing companies to block login attempts that only target passwords. By using a custom mix of solutions and 24/7 monitoring, ITonDemand works day and night to keep businesses safe.

Is your cybersecurity and systems outdated, leaving you vulnerable to brute force attacks? We can help. Get in touch for a consultation via our contact form or call us at: 1-800-297-8293

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