6 Ways Cybercriminals Hack Passwords

A person using a computer Description automatically generated with low confidence

Data breaches often start with compromised passwords, and a data breach can result in intellectual property theft, blackmail, or financial crimes. Compromised passwords can also help hackers drop dangerous malware like the ransomware. 

Hackers use a variety of techniques to guess the login credentials to accounts. Some of these techniques rely on technology, while others employ trickery. Let’s look at some ways cybercriminals hack passwords: 

1 Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a type of cyberattack where hackers use stolen login credentials, often leaked on the Dark Web, to breach security. In other words, hackers will use your old usernames and passwords to try and break into your accounts. Now you know why cybersecurity experts recommend that you change your password regularly.

2 Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is a cryptographic hacking technique that attempts many passwords until the right one is found. Some brute force attacks can try a billion passwords a second. Hackers may use a brute force attack to break into an account or sell passwords to other threat actors.

3 Dictionary Attack

A dictionary attack is a more targeted kind of brute force attack. It may try millions of combinations from a list of words in a dictionary or a list of commonly used passwords. Hackers can also customize brute force attacks with publicly available information about a target, such as their birth date or their kid’s name. 

4 Malware

Hackers can use malware like keyloggers, spyware, or stalkerware to read someone’s login credentials. Such malware can infect users from fraudulent websites and downloads or can be more targeted. For example, a threat actor can physically install a keylogger on someone’s computer. 

5 Hacked Networks

Cybercriminals can use WiFi networks with poor security settings or fake WiFi networks to spy on users and gain their passwords. They can also launch man-in-the-middle-attacks on such networks to place themselves between two people and manipulate their communication to steal passwords. 

6 Social Engineering

During a social engineering attack like phishing, a hacker can trick someone into sharing their password. For example, they may send an email to a spouse that appears to be from their partner, asking for their username and password. They can also send our emails with links to fraudulent websites with fake checkout systems designed to copy passwords. 

Ways to Enhance Password Security

Your first step is to create long and complex passwords to counter brute force attacks. In addition, you must avoid passwords with words, phrases, and dates. A complex password is significantly more challenging for a brute force attack to breach. A password manager can help you maintain sophisticated login credentials for multiple accounts. So, how do password managers work to protect your identity? Well, they auto-generate highly secure passwords that they store in secure locations. In addition, they can alert you to phishing scams. Besides a good password manager, please also arm your computer and mobile devices with the best anti-malware software to stop password-stealing malware, from spyware to Trojans. Finally, be cautious when handling emails, text messages, and social media messages and don’t share your password with anyone!