Types of Brute Force Attack: Prevention and Tools

Brute Force Attacks

In a brute force attack, unauthorized access to a system is obtained by “guessing” usernames and passwords. Brute force is a simple attack method with a high success rate.

According to Proofpoint’s 2023 Human Factor Report,

Proofpoint’s 2023 Human Factor Report

As brute force tools, some attackers use apps and scripts. These tools attempt numerous password combinations to circumvent authentication processes.

In other cases, attackers try to gain access to web applications by looking for the correct session ID. The motivation of an attacker could be to steal information, infect websites with malware, or disrupt service.

While some attackers still use brute force attacks by hand, bots now perform almost all brute force attacks. Attackers can access lists of real user credentials or frequently used credentials acquired through security lapses or the dark web.

Bots systematically attack websites, testing these lists of credentials and notifying the attacker when they gain access. Here are the different types of brute force attacks your organization can be vulnerable to:

Types of Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks, which enable unauthorized access to your data, can be categorized into five primary types. Let’s take a closer look at these types of attacks:

1. Simple Brute Force Attacks

A simple brute force attack occurs when a user manually enters credentials using speculation. The hackers create combinations of standard passwords or PIN codes.

These assaults are very common and can easily compromise users who employ weak passwords or disregard proper password etiquette, exposing their data to potential security breaches.

2. Dictionary Attacks

Dictionary attacks are when someone goes through dictionaries and modifies words by adding extra characters or numbers to try out different password combinations.

While this is not a brute-force attack, it can be useful in cracking weak passwords. Furthermore, dictionary attacks are rare due to their high effort and time requirements.

3. Hybrid Brute Force Attacks

A hybrid brute force attack combines dictionary and simple brute force attacks. To guess the password, a hacker must try a list of possible words and different characters, letters, and number combinations.

4. Reverse Brute Force Attacks

When a hacker already knows your previous password—which they may have obtained through a network breach—they launch reverse brute attacks.

By making calculated guesses, hackers use the known password to search the database for similar login credentials.

5. Credential stuffing

Credential stuffing is the practice of an attacker looking for patterns in a user’s password. They try to guess the target’s new password by analyzing the password etiquette from the username and password combinations they already have.

This brute force attack works well against people who use the same username and password for multiple accounts or who reuse passwords often.

How to Prevent Brute Force Attacks  

Here are a few tried-and-true strategies for preventing brute-force attacks:

1. Pick Robust Passwords

Implementing a strict password policy is the simplest and most efficient method of preventing a brute-force attack.

For the web application or public server, IT teams should develop a complicated password that is hard to figure out but manageable to remember.

Consider the following when you create a password:

  • Never reuse your account passwords. Make sure every online account you have uses a different combination of passwords.
  • Make use of lengthy passphrases with distinct characters and spaces. Your passwords should contain uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Make sure your password is more than six characters long. Passwords should ideally consist of at least 15 characters.
  • Never use words from any language’s dictionary. Using random character strings instead of words is preferable.

2. Set a login attempt limit

Most websites, particularly WordPress ones, permit infinite login attempts by default. To prevent brute force attacks, website administrators can use plugins to restrict the number of login attempts on their website.

With these plugins, you can specify how many logins you want users to have. Their IP addresses will be blocked from your site for a considerable time once they make more attempts than allowed.

3. Monitor IP addresses

Regarding the second strategy, you should restrict login attempts to individuals originating from a designated IP address or range.

This is particularly crucial if most of your staff members work remotely or your workplace is hybrid. Block login attempts from strange IP addresses and sets up alerts for when you encounter them.

4. Employ Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)   

According to Adroit Market Research MFA Market report, MFA is expected to hold a USD 20 billion market share by 2025. Still, there is space for development, and not all businesses have embraced MFA and 2FA with equal vigor.

Adding multi-factor or two-factor authentication to the accounts increases their security. When logging into an arrangement with 2FA, users must authenticate themselves before being allowed access.

For instance, if you have 2FA enabled, you will be prompted to verify that you are the person attempting to log into your email. You need to enter a special code sent to your mobile number to authenticate yourself before being able to access your account.


CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.”

In essence, CAPTCHAs are simple tasks for people to complete but challenging for automated computer programs to complete, like identifying patterns or clicking in a particular area on a webpage. Websites use them to prevent spam and bot traffic.

6. Use Unique Login URLs

Another difficult and time-consuming step for an attacker would be making unique login URLs for each group of users. It might not always stop a brute-force attack, but it might stop attackers who don’t want to bother.

7. Deactivate SSH root logins

The root user allows brute force attacks against the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol.

To prevent root user access via SSH, edit the sshd_config file and set the “DenyUsers root” and “PermitRootLogin no” options.

8. Employ Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

A web application firewall (WAF) provides adequate defense against brute force attacks that attempt unauthorized system access. It typically limits how many requests from a source may be made to a URL space in a given time.

In addition to brute force attacks, which try to obtain session tokens, WAFs can stop denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, which deplete server resources, and contain vulnerability scanning tools, which search your computer network for vulnerabilities.

The Top Five Brute Force Tools for Penetration Testing

For your system to be robust enough to withstand cyber-attacks, penetration testing is essential.

By using a hacker-like technique to access your IT system, penetration testing enables you to find security flaws in your system. The following are some of the top resources for penetration testing:

1. BruteX

Every service that is operating on the target system is automatically brute-forced by BruteX, including:

  • Accessible ports
  • User names
  • Passwords

It methodically creates a large number of potential passwords to test the strength of your system.

It also comes with services like Nmap, Hydra, and DNS enum, which let you start a brute force FTP and SSH connection, check for open reports, and determine which services the target server is running.

2. Disreach

Disreach is a command-line tool that allows you to brute-force web server files and directories. Despite recently being included in the official Kali Linux packages, it works flawlessly on Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

Since Disreach is written in Python, it can be integrated with existing projects and scripts. Furthermore, it functions incredibly well with recursive scanning.

Some of the most notable characteristics of Disreach are:

  • Delayed request
  • Scanner arena
  • Agent-to-user randomization
  • Multithreading
  • Proxy support
  • Multiple extension support

3. Callow

Callow, a configurable and easy-to-use brute force tool in Python 3, even allows non-techies to play around with the system. It is made with beginners’ needs in mind and features an easy error-handling mechanism.

Several characteristics of Callow that stand out are:

  • Simple to alter
  • Intuitive
  • Open source
  • SSB

Also Read: Securing the Business Network from Successful Kerberoasting Attacks

4. Burp Suite Professional

The Burp Suite Professional is an essential collection of tools for assessing website security. It automates tedious testing tasks and is utilized by professionals to determine the top ten OSWASP vulnerabilities.

Additionally, it logs the authentication sequences and generates reports that end users can access, use, and distribute immediately.

A brute force testing tool that enables you to:

  • Expanded scan coverage
  • Customize in dark mode
  • Test/scan Java Script
  • Test APIs and feature-rich modern web applications
  • Detect hidden vulnerabilities by performing out-of-band application security testing (OAST).

Conclusion: Brute force attacks are very successful and simple to execute. It is therefore strongly advised that you take the appropriate precautions to avoid them to protect your company from suffering financial, personal, or reputational harm.

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