What is Brute forcing and how can it be prevented?

15 August 2023
What is Brute forcing and how can it be prevented?

Brute forcing computer systems is an aggressive hacking technique where attackers attempt to gain unauthorized access by systematically trying all possible combinations of passwords or encryption keys until they find the correct one. This method is akin to a digital “trial and error” approach, exploiting weak or easily guessable credentials. While brute forcing can be effective, it is also time-consuming and resource-intensive, making it a double-edged sword in the realm of cyberattacks.

The brute forcing process involves using automated tools or scripts to generate and input various passwords or keys at rapid speed. Cybercriminals target a wide range of systems, from user accounts on websites and email platforms to encrypted files and network devices. The success of a brute force attack depends on factors such as the complexity of the password, the effectiveness of security measures in place, and the computational power of the attacker’s equipment.

Countermeasures against brute force attacks include:

  1. Strong Password Policies: Encouraging users to create complex long passwords with a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters significantly increases the difficulty of a brute force attack.
  2. Account Lockouts: Implementing account lockout mechanisms that temporarily suspend access after multiple failed login attempts can discourage attackers.
  3. Rate Limiting: Restricting the number of login attempts allowed within a specific time frame helps deter attackers from executing rapid-fire brute force attempts.
  4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implementing MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional verification beyond just a password.
  5. Captcha Challenges: Introducing captcha challenges after multiple failed login attempts can hinder automated brute force attacks.
  6. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Employing IDS tools can detect unusual patterns of login attempts and trigger alerts or preventative actions.
  7. Restrict Access to Authentication URLs: A requirement for brute force attacks is to send credentials. If you change the login page URL — for example, moving from /wp-login.php to /mysite-login — this can be enough to stop most automated and bulk tools.
  8. Change Default Passwords on all Network Devices: Default passwords on devices are a significant security risk, such as ‘admin’, as many users fail to change them. Ensure all default passwords are changed and ideally MFA is applied.
  9. User Awareness: Ensure your users are aware of the possibility of brute force attacks and adhere to the password policies and do not disclose login credentials to anyone.

While brute forcing is a persistent attack method, organizations can defend against it by adopting robust security measures, educating users about password best practices, and implementing technological solutions that identify and mitigate these types of threats. Ultimately, proactive security strategies and well-implemented safeguards are the best defence against the brute force assault on computer systems. Speak to one of our cybersecurity experts at Archway Securities to find out more.

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