Passwords are by far the most common type of user authentication. They are popular because their theory makes perfect sense to individuals and is reasonably simple to implement for developers. On the other hand, poorly constructed passwords can pose security flaws. A well-designed password-based authentication process does not save the user's actual password. This would make it far too simple for a hacker or malevolent insider to access all of the system's user accounts. In this tutorial, you will learn how to crack passwords and simultaneously try to make your passwords as brute force resistant as possible.
Now, start by learning about password cracking from a layman's perspective.
What Is Password Cracking?
Password cracking is the process of identifying an unknown password to a computer or network resource using a program code. It can also assist a threat actor in gaining illegal access to resources. Malicious actors can engage in various criminal activities with the information obtained through password cracking. Among these include the theft of banking credentials and the use of the information for fraud and identity theft. Passwords are recovered by a password cracker employing a variety of approaches. The procedure might entail comparing a set of words to guess credentials or using an algorithm to guess the password repeatedly.
Going on to the next topic on how to crack passwords, you will understand the variety of techniques employed in this process.
Techniques of Password Cracking
Passwords are usually kept in a hashed format, be it on website databases or operating system caches. Storing passwords in plaintext is too big a risk from a development perspective since a single lapse in security can release countless gigabytes of confidential user data. In this process, the passwords are converted into chunks of unreadable data, which can only be used for cross-verification when a user tries to log in. Despite hashing, hackers manage to capture fresh passwords, depending on how complex the initial password was. Some of the most widely used techniques are -
Asking the customer for their password is a simple approach to hack. A phishing email directs the unwary reader to a counterfeit log-in page linked with whatever service the hacker wants to access, generally by demanding the user fix some critical security flaw or aid in a database reset. That page then captures their password, which the hacker can subsequently exploit for their own purposes.
Social engineering influences the victim to get personal information such as bank account numbers or passwords. This strategy is popular among hackers because they realize that humans are the gateway to vital credentials and information. And, through social engineering, they employ tried-and-true tactics to exploit and influence age-old human tendencies rather than devising novel means to breach secure and advanced technologies. It has been demonstrated that many firms either lack adequate security or are overly friendly and trustworthy when they should not be, such as granting someone access to critical facilities based on a uniform or a sob story.
A hacker searches a password dictionary for the correct password in this case. Password dictionaries cover many themes and mixtures of topics, such as politics, movies, and music groups. Users' failure to create a strong password is why this approach efficiently cracks passwords. Simply said, this assault employs the same terms that many individuals use as passwords. A hacker can compare the password hash obtained to hashes of the password dictionaries to find the correct plaintext password.
Now that the passwords have been hashed, the hackers attempt to achieve authentication by breaking the password hash. They accomplish this by employing a Rainbow table, which is a set of pre-computed hashes of probable password combinations. Hackers can use the rainbow table to crack the hash, resulting in guessing your password. As a result, it retrieves the password hash from the system and eliminates any need to break it. Furthermore, it does not necessitate the discovery of the password itself. The breach is accomplished if the hash matches.
In a brute-force assault, the attacker attempts multiple password combinations until the correct one is identified. The attacker uses software to automate this process and run exhaustive password combinations in a substantially shorter length of time. With the growth of hardware and technology in recent years, such programs have been invigorated. It won't be quick if your password is more than a few characters lengthy, but it will eventually reveal your password. Brute force assaults can be sped up by throwing more processing resources at them.
But when learning how to crack passwords, consumers must be aware of the tools being used by hackers to attain the same. Now, you will go through some of these tools being circulated on the internet.
What Are Some Password-Cracking Tools?
Some of the tools being used to crack passwords are -
- Cain and Abel - This password recovery program can recover credentials for Microsoft Windows user accounts and Microsoft Access passwords. Cain and Abel employ a graphical user interface, making it easier to use than equivalent applications. The program employs dictionary lists and brute-force attack techniques.
- John the Ripper - John the Ripper (JtR) is a password cracking application first released in 1996 for UNIX-based computers. It was created to evaluate password strength, brute-force encrypted (hashed) passwords, and break passwords using dictionary attacks. It can use dictionary attacks, rainbow tables, and brute force attacks depending on the target type.
- Rainbow Crack - It belongs to the hash cracker tool category, which uses a large-scale time-memory trade-off technique to break passwords quicker than standard brute force tools. Time and memory trade-off is a computing process in which all plain text and hash pairs are generated using a certain hash algorithm. The outcomes are then saved in the rainbow table. This procedure might take a long time. However, once the table is ready, it can break passwords far quicker than brute force methods.
Now that you understand how to crack passwords using hash tables and ready-made tools, it’s time to look at ways to protect your credentials from falling prey to such techniques.
How to Prevent Your Password From Being Cracked?
Some of the methods to prevent passwords from being cracked are-
- Longer Passwords: Longer passwords are required, making the brute force mechanism tougher to implement. Longer passwords and passphrases have been demonstrated to boost security significantly. However, it is still critical to avoid lengthier passwords that have previously been hacked or that feature often in cracking dictionaries.
- No Personal Details: This password policy encourages users to establish passwords that do not contain personal information. As previously said, most users create passwords utilizing personal information such as hobbies, nicknames, pet or family member names, etc. If a hacker has access to personal information about a specific user (for example, via social media), they will test password combinations based on this knowledge.
- Different Passwords for Different Accounts: Password regulations should compel users to distinguish between security and convenience. Users should be prohibited from using the same passwords for all services. Password sharing between users – including those who work in the same department or use the same equipment – should be avoided. A single breached password doesn't affect your other accounts with this policy.
- Use Passphrases: Some password regulations necessitate the creation of a passphrase rather than a password. While passes serve the same objective, their length makes them more difficult to break. In addition to letters, a good pass should include numbers and symbols. Passwords may be easier for users to remember than passphrases. However, the latter is much more breach-resistant.
- Two-Factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication(2FA) can help secure an online account or even a smartphone. 2FA does this by asking the user to provide two forms of information—a password or personal identification number (PIN), a code texted to the user's smartphone, or a fingerprint—before accessing whatever is secured. This helps discourage unauthorized entries to an account without the original user's permission.
With that covered, you have reached the end of this tutorial on how to crack passwords.
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In this tutorial on how to crack passwords, you learned the need for stronger passwords, the variety of techniques that can be used to break passwords and their hashes. You also covered tools that aid in this password cracking and ended the lesson with a few ways to protect your credentials from such nefarious tools.
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