Brute-force and dictionary attacks

Attack tree

1 Make a users.txt file from enumerated users
2 Make a passwords.txt file (use information from reconnaissance)
3 Use a tool such as Metasploit, Hydra, Medusa, or Nmap



users.txt contains one entry: a name from users enumeration

nmap --script ssh-brute -p22 <IP address> --script-args userdb=users.txt,passdb=passwords.txt


In a brute-force attack, an adversary cycles through every possible password combination until they stumble on the correct one. The time required is likely to exceed the death of the universe, and it is most likely to trigger automated blocking defenses and set off every possible alarm.

Lists of the most popular passwords and dictionary attacks make the process much quicker than pure trial and error. The more sophisticated a user’s password, however, the longer it will take and the more it will cost to crack it, and if the password is not in the dictionary of guesses, no luck.

The more guesses made, the more likely is detection or triggering a control. If the target organisation has an account lockout policy that locks an account after four incorrect guesses, this may create a denial of service condition for any accounts targeted with four or more incorrect guesses.