Password-cracking techniques used by hackers

Which words pop into your head when creating a password for your new account on a website or on a social network? Safety? Privacy? Well, there’s some bad news for you here — in our digital world, hackers are clued-up on hacking any kind of password that you can think into existence, and as a matter of fact, it’s a global problem. Users of the internet can never be sure that their accounts are protected enough to prevent data theft. Even global organizations such as Facebook can be the subject of cyber-attacks. And we mention the social giant for good reason too — in March 2020, the British company Comparitech stated that the data of more than 267 million people was leaked.

Ergo, it’s of paramount importance to know which techniques cybercriminals use to hack your password and steal your private information. There are a great number of methods that hackers can use to deceive people in order to steal private credentials and data. That’s why, today, we’re going through the most common techniques that can be used, so you’ll be in the know and much more secure online as a result.

1. Phishing

The easiest and most common way of hacking someone’s password is phishing. There are plenty of techniques here: phishing can take the form of an email, an SMS, a direct message on a social media platform, or a public post on a website. Cybercriminals spread a link or attachment that hooks an internet user in. Pushing leads a victim to a fake log-in page where he or she has to enter their data. After hacking, the hackers get a variety of data that can be used for any purpose. This way, people get their sensitive information served on a silver platter. As this technique is one of the oldest ones in the book, most users are aware of such a ploy. Almost everyone knows that following a suspicious link on the internet is a sure way of compromising yourself. Indeed, that’s why emails from unknown addresses tend to fall straight into the spam box and we’re used to blocking unknown numbers.

2. Social engineering

This type of cyberattack is based on the mistakes and imprudence that come as standard with the human brain. A criminal tricks the victim by acting like he or she is a real agent of an official company. It might be a fake call from your bank or some kind of technical support branch. You’ll likely be asked to provide confidential data so that the ‘agent’ may investigate ‘suspicious activity’ on your bank account. Usually, social engineering is mostly successful in manipulating pensioners due to their often dull mental blade and trusting nature. This technique is quite widespread and is much easier than creating an entire fake website to phish someone’s password.

3. Brute force attack

Brute force attacks are best characterized by the long, heavy method of checking each possible password variant. This way is really time-consuming, so most hackers use special software to automate the process. Most of the time, such attacks are based on knowledge gained from previous cracks as users often reuse their passwords on multiple websites and platforms. Also, cybercriminals might try lists of common variations of letters and numbers. That’s why, to protect yourself from such attacks, you should use as many symbols as possible and create passwords from unconnected words and unpredictable alpha-numerical compilations. Alternatively, you could use a password manager to automate this struggle (nudge nudge).

4. Dictionary attack

The dictionary attack partly resembles the previous method (brute force attack), the main idea of such a cyber attack is to submit all possible password variations by taking words from the dictionary. It makes the process of researching the right combination easier due to the strict structure of the dictionary. Moreover, it takes less time to crack the password If the hacker knows some sensitive information about the victim, like the name of their child, pet, or favorite color, for instance. Indeed, predictable human nature is the reason why this is such an effective method. To eliminate the possibility of such a cyberattack, it’s worth mixing semantically unconnected words, numerals, and other symbols. The best way, of course, is to get a password manager (nudge nudge).

5. Rainbow table attack

Passwords stored on the victim’s computer are usually encrypted. The plain text is replaced by various strings (hashes) to prevent data leaks. This method is named ‘hashing’. However, this method doesn’t guarantee that the password won’t be cracked; hackers are very familiar with such multi-layer security. The ‘rainbow table’ is a list of passwords and their hashes that have already been acquired through previous attacks. Hackers try to decrypt hashes by figuring out the correct combination based on different variations from the rainbow table. As a result, the password’s code may be retrieved from the database, removing the necessity to hack it. A good way to mitigate the risks of such an attack is to use software that includes randomly generated data in the password before hashing it.

6. Spidering

Many companies base their passwords on the names of the products they produce to help their staff remember the credentials that they need to access corporate accounts. Spidering is a type of cyberattack that uses this information to hack the company’s system and exploit the obtained information for malicious purposes. They surf the sites of organizations and learn about their businesses. Then, this knowledge is used to make a list of keywords that can be exploited in brute force attacks. As this process is quite time-consuming, experienced hackers utilize automatic software such as the infamous ‘web crawler’.

7. Malware

Malware is a harmful kind of software created to steal private information from the computer that it has been installed on. The victim gives access to his or her computer by clicking on a link specially made by cybercriminals. While this technique has various forms, the most common are keyloggers and screen scrapers that take a video of a user's screen or screenshots when passwords are being entered. They then send this data to the hacker. Some kinds of malware can encrypt a system’s data and prevent users from accessing certain programs. Others can look through users’ data to find a password dictionary that can be used in a variety of ways.

The amount of techniques being used by hackers to crack our passwords is increasing exponentially. The more ways there are to prevent break-ins, the more work hackers ought to do to get around them. That’s why, you should leave it to us, Passwork, your neighborly password managing wizards, to lift the burden from your shoulders.