What Is A Server Brute Force Attack?

What Is A Server Brute Force Attack?

What Is A Server Brute Force Attack?

When you hear a term like “brute force attack” your mind probably fills with violent and chaotic images, but in the online world, it’s actually an unsophisticated way used by hackers to breach a server to access the information stored within. The concept is rather simple, and the technique is rather old, but server brute force attacks are still used today mainly because, for the most part, they still work.

So, what is a brute force attack and what steps can you take to protect your data?

How a Server Brute Force Attack Works

When a hacker performs a brute force attack on a server, they blitz the server using a variety of random passwords, personal identification numbers or encryption keys to identify the correct login information. In many cases, however, the goal of the hacker isn’t to get inside the server but to test the strength of an organization's network security.

The length and diversity of a server’s password is crucial against these types of attacks as the more complex the password is, the more difficult it will be for the hacker to assemble the right collection of letters, numbers and symbols. For instance, if your password is comprised of only two numbers, a hacker only needs to try 100 different combinations to breach it. Therefore, the standard used by most modern websites is between 8 and 16 characters, including both upper and lowercase letters. With such a range of different characters, it can be almost impossible for hackers to randomly guess the right combination.

3 Types of Brute Force Attacks

Hackers will typically apply one of three different brute force attack strategies when trying to breach a server. These include credential recycling, dictionary attack and reverse-brute force attack.

A credential recycling attack uses a server’s previous usernames and passwords. This is a popular strategy because so many people recycle their logins when prompted to update them instead of making new credentials. Hackers obtain this information through a variety of means, including previous brute force attacks, past leaks and breaches and purchasing the information on the Dark Web.

A dictionary attack is another common strategy because so many login credentials feature words of cities, names, objects and other things found in a dictionary.

In a reverse-brute force attack, the hacker isn’t focused on getting into one server. Instead, they use one password on as many accounts as possible in the hopes that it will work on one of them. The account that is targeted is thereby completely random.

How to Protect Against Brute Force Attacks

Because brute force attacks are among the least sophisticated types of attacks used today, it isn’t that difficult to protect yourself from one. Here are six strategies that will help reduce your risk of having your server breached by hackers using the three techniques listed above.

  1. Increase your password length and complexity, so that it includes a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols
  2. Use 2-factor authentication, such as text code verification
  3. Change your passwords on a regular basis
  4. Keep your passwords safe in an encrypted online vault for easy access when necessary
  5. Avoid recycling previously used login credentials
  6. Scramble your IP address to improve your online security

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