What is a Brute Force Attack?

A brute force attack is a method of cracking a password or cipher by systematically trying every possible combination of characters until the correct one is found. This method is used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to a system or to decrypt encrypted data. The effectiveness of a brute force attack depends on several factors, including the length of the password, the complexity of the password (e.g. the use of symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters), and the processing power of the attacker's computer.

In the context of computer security, a brute force attack is often used against passwords. The attacker will try every possible combination of characters until the correct password is found. This can be done using a specialized software program, or manually, by someone sitting at a keyboard. The speed at which a brute force attack can crack a password depends on the length of the password and the processing power of the attacker's computer.

Brute force attacks can also be used against ciphers, where the attacker tries every possible key until the correct one is found. This method is less effective against modern encryption algorithms that use strong encryption keys.

To protect against brute force attacks, it is recommended to use strong and complex passwords, and to employ other security measures such as two-factor authentication. In addition, it is important to regularly update passwords and to monitor the security of systems and networks for signs of an attack.

Simplified Example

A brute force attack can be compared to trying every possible combination on a locked safe in order to open it. Similarly, in computing, a brute force attack is a method where an attacker tries multiple combinations of passwords or keys until they find the correct one. Just like trying every combination on a safe could take a long time and be impractical, a brute force attack in computing can also take a long time and require significant computational power. This is why it's important to use strong and unique passwords to protect against such attacks.

History of the Term Brute-Force Attack

The term "brute force attack" was first coined in the 1970s, with the advent of modern cryptography. As encryption techniques became more complex, brute-force attacks gained prominence as a method for attempting to decrypt sensitive data. Brute-force attacks rely on the principle of trial-and-error, systematically attempting various combinations of characters or passwords until the correct one is discovered.

In the modern era, brute-force attacks have become increasingly sophisticated, employing specialized software and hardware to automate the process of generating and testing password combinations. This has made brute-force attacks a significant threat to cybersecurity, particularly as the use of passwords for authentication has become ubiquitous.

Brute force attacks remain a persistent threat in the cybersecurity landscape. As computing power continues to increase, brute-force attacks are becoming more potent and capable of cracking even the most complex passwords. Organizations must remain vigilant and implement robust security measures to protect against these attacks.


Dictionary Attack: This is a type of brute force attack where a hacker uses a pre-existing list of words to try and guess the password of a target. This method is often successful as many people use easily guessable passwords such as "password" or "123456".

Credential Stuffing: This is a brute force attack where an attacker uses a list of previously leaked usernames and passwords to gain access to a victim's accounts on other platforms. Many people use the same login credentials across multiple platforms, so if one set of credentials is leaked, a hacker can use them to gain access to other accounts.

Brute Force Ransomware: This is a type of ransomware that encrypts a victim's files using a brute force attack. The attacker uses a program to try every possible encryption key until they find the one that decrypts the victim's files. This type of ransomware is particularly dangerous as it can be difficult or impossible to recover the encrypted files without paying the ransom.

  • Password Manager: A password manager is a software application that helps users store, generate, and manage complex passwords for their online accounts.

  • Black Hat Hacker: A black hat hacker is an individual who seeks out vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks for malicious intent.