Brute force attack

  • What is a brute force attack?
  • How does a brute force attack work?
  • What are the types of brute force attacks?
  • What are some of the notable brute force attacks?
  • What is the objective of hackers who launch brute force attacks?
  • How do I prevent brute force attacks?
  • How does Log360 help protect you from brute force attacks?

Ever wondered how a hacker successfully breaks into secure digital spaces? Let's take a look at brute force attacks—the cyberattack where persistence meets passwords. We'll cover the attack basics, outline its various types, and look at case studies of these relentless attempts to infiltrate networks.

Brute force attack

What is a brute force attack?

A brute force attack is a type of cyberattack in which an attacker systematically tries all possible combinations of passwords or encryption keys until the correct one is found. The primary goal of a brute force attack is to gain unauthorized access to a system, a network, or an account.

For example, if a user has a password-protected account, an attacker will attempt to log in by trying every possible password until the correct password is discovered. This method can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially if the password is complex, using a combination of alphanumeric and special characters. However, brute force attack is a straightforward and persistent approach that, given enough time and computing power, can be used to break into a system eventually.

To defend against brute force attacks, organizations and individuals often implement security measures such as account lockouts, CAPTCHA challenges, and strong password-creation policies. And to enhance security, they can incorporate MFA, which demands verification beyond the input of a password.

Brute force attack process

How does a brute force attack work?

The process of a brute force attack involves an automated or manual trial-and-error approach, where the attacker uses various combinations of characters, numbers, and symbols to guess the correct authentication information.

Here's a general overview of how a brute force attack works:

  • 1

    Target selection

    The attacker selects a target system, account, or encryption scheme to compromise.

  • 2

    Credential format

    The attacker determines the format and requirements of the authentication credentials, such as the length and character set of passwords.

  • 3

    Automated or manual attempts

    The attacker uses automated tools or scripts to generate and try as many credential combinations as rapidly as they can. These tools can iterate through all possible combinations systematically. In manual brute force attacks, an attacker may attempt to guess passwords manually, but this is a much slower and less practical approach.

  • 4

    Password complexity

    The success of a brute force attack depends on the complexity of the password or authentication credentials. Longer and more complex passwords, with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, are more resistant to brute force attacks.

  • 5

    Rate-limiting and countermeasures

    To counter brute force attacks, many systems implement rate-limiting mechanisms, which lock out or delay access after a certain number of failed login attempts. These mechanisms make it increasingly challenging for attackers to decode passwords within a limited timeframe.

  • 6


    Brute force attacks can be time-consuming, especially if the password is complex and the system has effective security measures in place. Attackers must be persistent and patient, allowing their tools to run for an extended period to increase the chances of success.

  • 7

    Avoiding detection

    Some attackers try to avoid detection by using techniques such as slow brute force attacks, which involves spreading attempts over a longer period or using several IP addresses to distribute the attack.

  • 8

    Adaptation to countermeasures

    As security measures evolve, attackers may change their methods. For example, they might switch to more sophisticated attacks or combine brute force with other techniques, such as credential stuffing, phishing, password sniffing, or manipulator-in-the-middle attacks, to increase their chances of success.

It's important for individuals and organizations to implement strong security practices, such as using complex and unique passwords, enabling MFA, and monitoring for unusual or suspicious activities, to mitigate the risk of brute force attacks.

Types of brute force attack

What are the types of brute force attacks?

Brute force attacks can take various forms, depending on the target and the specific security mechanisms in place. Here are some common types of brute force attacks:

What are the types of brute force attacks?


Credential stuffing

Description: Attackers use stolen username and password combinations collected from one source and test them on other websites, relying on users’ tendencies to reuse passwords.

Example: Attempting the same combination of username and password across different accounts and social media profiles.


Reverse brute force attacks

Description: Starting with a known password, often obtained through a network breach, and searching for a matching login credential using lists of millions of usernames.

Example: Testing a commonly used weak password, like “Password123,” against a database of usernames to find a match.


Simple brute force attacks

Description: Manual attempts by a hacker to guess a user's login credentials without using any software, typically using standard password combinations or PIN codes.

Example: Trying common passwords like "password123" or "1234."


Dictionary attacks

Description: Testing possible passwords against a target's username by running through dictionaries and amending words with special characters and numbers.

Example: Trying words from a dictionary with variations like "passw0rd1" or "secure123."


Hybrid brute force attacks

Description: Combining a dictionary attack with a simple brute force attack. The attacker starts with a known username and uses both methods to discover the account login combination.

Example: Using a list of potential words and trying various character, letter, and number combinations.

Brute force attacks encompass various methods employed by hackers to gain unauthorized access to systems. While these attacks vary in their approach, from manual guessing of passwords to automated processes using dictionaries or stolen credentials, their end goal stays the same.

Notable brute force attacks

What are some of the notable brute force attacks?

Brute force attacks are unfortunately common in the cybersecurity landscape, and there have been several notable real-life examples over the years.

Here are a few well-known organizations that have experienced brute force attacks:

  • 1


    In 2012, hackers breached LinkedIn's security and gained access to millions of user passwords. The attackers used a combination of social engineering and brute force attack methods to compromise weak passwords. The incident highlighted the importance of using strong and unique passwords.

  • 2

    Sony PlayStation Network

    In 2011, the Sony PlayStation Network suffered a major security breach. The attackers used a combination of techniques, including brute force attack, to gain access to user accounts. This led to the compromise of personal information and disrupted online gaming services for a significant period.

  • 3


    In 2016, there were reports of attackers using brute force attacks to gain unauthorized access to TeamViewer accounts. Once compromised, attackers could potentially take control of users' computers and access sensitive information.

  • 4

    WordPress websites

    Brute force attacks against WordPress websites are pervasive. Attackers often target the login pages of WordPress sites, attempting to guess usernames and passwords. This underlines the importance of implementing strong authentication measures and using security plugins to mitigate such attacks.

  • 5


    In one of the largest data breaches in history, Yahoo experienced a series of attacks between 2013 and 2016. Brute force attacks were likely part of the tactics used to gain access to user accounts. The breach compromised billions of user accounts and underscored the importance of robust cybersecurity practices.

  • 6


    In 2013, GitHub experienced a significant distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that was accompanied by a brute force attack. Attackers attempted to guess passwords to gain unauthorized access to GitHub accounts. GitHub responded by implementing rate limiting and other security measures.

  • 7


    While the Equifax breach of 2017 primarily resulted from a web application vulnerability, reports suggested that a brute force attack was also attempted as part of the overall attack strategy. The breach exposed sensitive personal information of millions of individuals.

These examples show that brute force attacks have targeted various platforms, from social media platforms like LinkedIn to gaming networks like Sony PlayStation, highlighting the persistent threats posed by attackers exploiting weak passwords and security postures.

Objective of the hackers

What is the objective of hackers who launch brute force attacks?

Hackers use brute force attacks primarily to gain unauthorized access to systems, accounts, or sensitive information. The specific objectives and what they gain from these attacks can vary depending on the target and the attacker's goals.

Here are some common motivations for hackers engaging in brute force attacks:

  • 1

    Unauthorized access

    The primary goal of a brute force attack is to gain access to a system or account by successfully guessing the correct password, PIN, or encryption key.

  • 2

    Data or identity theft

    Unauthorized access allows hackers to seize sensitive data, like personal information, financial details, intellectual property, or other confidential data, through brute force attacks. This compromised information can then be exploited for identity theft, fraud, and other malicious activities.

  • 3

    Account takeover

    Brute force attacks can lead to account takeovers, where the attacker gains control of a user's account. This could be an email account, social media account, or other online account.

  • 4

    Financial gain

    Hackers may aim to gain financial benefits by accessing accounts with financial information, stealing credit card details, or making fraudulent transactions.

  • 5

    Espionage and sabotage

    In targeted attacks, hackers may use brute force techniques to gain access to systems for espionage purposes or to sabotage operations. In some cases, attackers may engage in brute force attacks with the sole purpose of disrupting the normal operation of a system, causing downtime, and affecting the availability of services.

  • 6


    Some attackers use brute force attacks to gain control of systems and then demand a ransom for restoring access or preventing the release of sensitive information.

  • 7

    Unauthorized resource use

    Brute force attacks not only facilitate unauthorized access but also enable the compromise system to be exploited for various malicious activities, including launching further attacks, hosting malicious content, participating in a botnet, and installing persistent malware for information gathering or as a base for subsequent attacks.

It's important to note that the motivations behind brute force attacks can vary widely, and attackers may adapt their strategies based on the target and their specific objectives.

Preventing brute force attacks

How do I prevent brute force attacks?

Preventing brute force attacks involves implementing various security measures systematically to make it difficult for attackers to guess credentials.

Here are some effective strategies you can use to prevent brute force attacks:

  • 1

    Strong password policies

    Enforce the use of strong, complex passwords that include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Discourage the use of easily guessable passwords.

  • 2


    Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security. Even if an attacker manages to obtain the password, they will still need an additional form of verification to access the account.

  • 3

    Account lockout policies

    Implement account lockout policies that temporarily lock user accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts. This helps prevent brute force attacks by slowing down the attacker's progress.

  • 4

    Rate limiting

    Use rate-limiting mechanisms to control the number of login attempts allowed within a specific timeframe. This makes it more difficult for attackers to perform rapid and numerous login attempts.

  • 5

    CAPTCHA challenges

    Implement CAPTCHA challenges on login pages to differentiate between human users and automated bots. This can help prevent automated scripts from executing numerous login attempts.

  • 6

    Log monitoring and analysis

    Regularly monitor logs for suspicious activities, such as a high number of failed login attempts. Implement automated alerting systems to notify administrators of potential security incidents.

  • 7

    Network intrusion detection and prevention system (NIDS/NIPS)

    Deploy a NIDS or NIPS to monitor and detect suspicious network activities, including brute force attacks.

  • 8

    IP allowlisting and blocklisting

    Consider implementing IP allowlisting or blocklisting to allow or block specific IP addresses based on known patterns of malicious activity.

  • 9

    Software updates and security audits

    Keep software, including operating systems and security software, up to date. Software updates often include patches for known vulnerabilities that attackers may exploit. Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify and address potential vulnerabilities in your systems and applications.

  • By implementing a combination of these preventive measures, organizations and individuals can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to brute force attacks. It's important to review regularly and update security measures to adapt to evolving threats.

Log360 for preventing brute force attacks

How does Log360 help protect you from brute force attacks?

ManageEngine Log360 is a security information and event management (SIEM) solution that helps organizations detect and respond to various security threats, including brute force attacks.

Here's how Log360 can assist in mitigating and responding to brute force attacks:

  • 1

    Real-time monitoring

    Monitor logs and events in real time from various sources within the IT infrastructure. Log360 can detect multiple failed login attempts within a short time frame, a common indicator of brute force attacks.

  • 2

    Alerts and notifications

    Get alerts and notifications when Log360 identifies patterns indicative of a brute force attack. Security administrators can receive immediate alerts to respond promptly and investigate any suspicious activity.

  • 3

    Anomaly detection

    Anomaly detection mechanisms help you to identify deviations from normal behavior. Unusual spikes in login attempts or patterns inconsistent with typical user behavior can trigger alerts for further investigation.

  • 4

    Correlation of events

    Correlate events from various sources to provide a comprehensive view of security incidents. Log360 can correlate failed login attempts with other suspicious activities, providing a more accurate assessment of potential threats.

  • 5

    Historical analysis

    Analyze historical log data, helping your security team identify patterns and trends associated with past brute force attacks. This historical analysis can contribute to proactive security measures.

  • 6

    Automated response

    Respond to a detected brute force attack with automated actions such as blocking IP addresses or initiating other preventive measures.

  • 7

    Integration with other security tools

    Integrate the solution with other security tools, such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and endpoint protection solutions, to provide a more comprehensive defense against brute force attacks.

While brute force attacks remain a threat, the combination of cybersecurity best practices and SIEM solutions like Log360 can help enhance your security posture and establish a robust defense against this and other cyberthreats.

Get the latest content delivered
right to your inbox!


Cyber Security - Knowledge Base


  Zoho Corporation Pvt. Ltd. All rights reserved.