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What is a Brute Force Attack?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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A brute force attack is a type of attack on a passcode or key. For the purpose of accessing encrypted data or accounts without the authorization to do so, a brute force attack involves cracking a passcode or key by trying every possible passcode. This method of cracking codes can be difficult, but is not impossible. Its success, however, may depend on the length of the passcode and the values that may be included as part of it. The ultimate success of a brute force attack may also depend on whether or not the account in question has security measures that lock the account once an incorrect passcode has been entered a particular number of times.

Brute force attacks are basically trial-and-error attacks on a party’s account or private information. To access data or accounts that are protected by a passcode, a program is used to enter all of the possible passcode combinations, one by one, that could be used to protect the account or data. This could mean entering all the letter combinations that could be used as a passcode; all of the number combinations; or all of the letter-and-number combinations until the correct combination is found.

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In most cases, it takes a very long time to crack a passcode using a brute force attack. Since there are so many passcodes an individual or company may use to protect information and accounts, it can take days, weeks, or even months to find the right passcode in this manner. In fact, a very complicated passcode could even take years to crack. It is possible for a program to find the right combination fairly quickly, however, if a person or company has set an uncomplicated, short passcode.

There are some ways in which a person or company may render brute force attacks less likely to be successful. For example, a passcode should never be easy to guess, so it is usually best to avoid using names, birthdays, and words like “LOVE.” The more complicated a password is, including a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers, the harder it will usually be to crack. Setting longer passcodes may help as well. Additionally, many accounts have technology in place that locks account access if the wrong passcode is entered more than a couple of times; this can go a long way toward foiling a brute force attack.

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