When was the last time you used a complex password? By complex, we mean something like “cXa7Ly9uO5#2Z*” instead of a simple one like “john1995” or “123456789”. Surprisingly, the average time it takes for a hacker to crack an 11-digit numeric password is just two seconds, which makes it incredibly important for everyone to start using complex passwords.
To understand how hackers are able to crack a password within such a short amount of time and with such ease, we need to understand how password authentication works and the different ways a password can be cracked.
Before we dive deeper into details of password authentication and password cracking methods, let’s first look at some stats and understand how they impact the way you generate, use, and save new passwords.
1.In 2022,“123456” was the most commonly used password, followed by “123456789” and “password”.
2.A recent survey showed that only 53% of people use different passwords for different accounts, leaving the rest vulnerable to potential hacks.
3.The average user has 26 password protected accounts.
4.Approximately 10% of internet users have used “123456” as their password.
5.A six-character password containing only lowercase letters can be cracked in less than 10 minutes.
6.A 12-character password containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols can take over 1,000 years to crack.
7.The most common password length is 8 characters.
8.Approximately 81% of data breaches are due to weak or stolen passwords.
9.Over 80% of users admit to reusing passwords across multiple accounts.
10.In 2022, there were over 2.29 billion global records exposed in data breaches.
11.Phishing is the most common tactic used by hackers to obtain passwords.
12.Brute force attacks are responsible for approximately 5% of successful data breaches. Brute force attack is a trial-and-error method used by hackers to guess a password by systematically checking all possible combinations of characters until the correct one is found. The checking is done using automated tools or a coding script written by hackers.
When you log in to a website or application, the password authentication process begins. You enter your username or email address and password, and the website or app checks this information against a database of user credentials.
The password you enter is usually encrypted using a mathematical algorithm, such as SHA-256 or AES-256, which scrambles your password into a unique string of characters that cannot be easily reversed or deciphered. This encrypted version of your password is stored in the website or app's database, along with your username or email address.
During the account creation process, the password is first hashed (converted) using a one-way function that transforms the password into a unique string of characters. The resulting hash is then stored in the system's database. The next time the user tries to log in, the password they provide is hashed again and compared to the stored hash. If the two hashes match, the user is authenticated and granted access to the system.
To ensure the security of the password, it is essential to hash the password before storing it in the system's database. Hashing ensures that the password is not saved in plain text, making it difficult for attackers to read and use the password if they gain access to the system's database.
Moreover, many systems incorporate additional security measures like salting, which adds a random string of characters to the password before hashing. Salting ensures that attackers cannot use precomputed hashes of commonly used passwords to easily crack the password, adding another layer of security.
When you try to log in again, the website or app will re-encrypt the password you enter and compare it to the encrypted version stored in the database. If the two versions match, you are granted access to the site or app. This process ensures that only authorized users with the correct password can access their accounts.
Password authentication is not always fool proof. Passwords can be stolen or guessed by attackers using various methods, such as brute-force attacks or social engineering. As a result, it is essential to follow password best practices, such as using a long and complex password, using unique passwords for each account, and changing passwords frequently.
Hackers use various methods and algorithms to crack passwords, including brute force attacks and social engineering techniques like phishing. Let’s explore some of the most commonly used techniques for password cracking.
Brute Force Attack: The most basic algorithm of cracking a password is known as a brute force attack. This method involves using a program to guess every possible combination of characters until the correct password is found. While this may seem like a time-consuming and tedious process, modern computers are incredibly fast and can guess millions of password combinations per second.
Dictionary Attack: Another method used to crack passwords is the dictionary attack. In this method, the attacker uses a program that has a pre-existing list of commonly used passwords and tries them one by one until the correct password is found. This list of passwords is known as a password dictionary and can be created by the attacker or downloaded from the internet.
Phishing: Phishing is a social engineering attack that involves tricking a user into revealing their password. Attackers create fake login pages that look identical to the real ones and send the user a link to the fake page. When the user enters their password, the attacker captures it and can use it to gain access to the user's account.
Keystroke Logging: Keystroke logging involves installing a program on a victim's computer that records every keystroke made by the user, including their password. Attackers can then retrieve the recorded keystrokes and use them to gain access to the victim's account.
Shoulder Surfing: Shoulder surfing involves physically watching a user enter their password. Attackers can do this by standing close to the victim or using a hidden camera to record the user's keystrokes. Once the password is captured, the attacker can use it to gain access to the user's account.
Each technique has its own strengths and weaknesses, and hackers very cleverly utilize each of it to prepare and execute the attack. As a result, it is crucial to have a comprehensive approach to password protection to ensure that your credentials are secure from hacking attempt
To ensure the security of your passwords and protect them from malicious attacks by hackers, there are several methods, tips, and best practices that can be employed. By implementing the appropriate methods and techniques, you can ensure that your passwords remain safe and secure at all times. Some of the best methods you can use are:
Complex Passwords: One of the simplest ways to protect your passwords is to use strong and complex passwords. Passwords should be at least eight characters long and should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A strong password makes it more difficult for hackers to crack your password using brute-force attacks.
For example, a password like “X@xg0n$&p1E” would take billions of years to be cracked using brute force even with the fastest computers available today. You can use a password generator like AxCrypt’s Password Manager to automatically generate and save complex passwords.
Password Managers: A password manager is a tool that generates and stores complex passwords for all your online accounts. It stores your passwords in an encrypted database, and you only need to remember one master password to access all your passwords. This method of password protection helps to ensure that you don't use the same password for multiple accounts, which reduces the risk of a password breach.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account. It requires you to enter a verification code in addition to your password to log into your account. The verification code can be sent to your phone via text message, email, or an authenticator app. This method of authentication helps to ensure that only the authorized user has access to the account.
Biometric Authentication: Biometric authentication uses unique biological characteristics such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans to identify users. This method of authentication is more secure than passwords since it's difficult for hackers to fake biometric data. Biometric authentication is increasingly being used in mobile devices and laptops to improve security.
Password-less Authentication: Password-less authentication is a new trend in password protection. It replaces the traditional password with other forms of authentication such as biometrics, security tokens, or one-time passwords.
This method of authentication is more secure since it eliminates the risk of password theft and password reuse.
Apart from these methods, one more highly effective password protection practice is to change your password frequently. This is because the longer you use a password, the higher the chances are that it may get compromised. Regularly changing your password ensures that even if a hacker gains access to it, they won't be able to use it for long before it becomes invalid.
A password manager is a software application that helps users generate, store, and manage passwords securely. It’s a tool that can be used to create unique, complex passwords for each of your online accounts and store them in a secure vault. The benefits of using a password manager are numerous, but the primary advantage is that it makes it easier to create and remember strong passwords.
Using a password manager can also improve the overall security of your online accounts. Since many people tend to use the same password across multiple accounts, if one password is compromised, it can lead to a domino effect of security breaches across all your other accounts. With a password manager, you can ensure that each account has a unique and complex password, which greatly reduces the risk of a data breach.
Another advantage of using a password manager is that it can save you a lot of time. Remembering multiple passwords can be difficult, and having to reset them frequently can be frustrating. With a password manager, you only need to remember one master password to access all of your other passwords. This not only saves you time, but it also reduces the chances of forgetting your password and being locked out of your account.
Opting for a password manager is a wise decision that can provide you with peace of mind. With its simple yet effective approach, you can secure your online accounts and steer clear of the stress and financial loss that often accompany data breaches. By taking proactive measures to safeguard your personal information, you can rest assured that your online accounts are well protected, and your sensitive data is safe from prying eyes.