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7 Common Ways Cybercriminals Compromise Passwords

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Jenna Delport
Jenna Delport
I’m a tech writer, world traveller, avocado-eater and dog lover, not always in that order.

One of the most important parts of avoiding compromise is understanding how cybercriminals may attempt to gain access to your critical data, reveals Renee Tarun, VP of Information Security at Fortinet. He goes on to say that attack techniques continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, giving cybercriminals a vast toolkit to use to exploit users.

Here are seven techniques to look out for:

  1. Social engineering attacks: Attacks such as phishing through emails and texts, where users are tricked into providing their credentials, clicking on malicious links or attachments, or going to malicious websites.
  2. Dictionary attacks: Attacker uses a list of common words, called the dictionary to try to gain access to passwords in anticipation that people have used common words or short passwords. Their technique also includes adding numbers before and/or after the common words to account for people thinking that simply adding numbers before and/or after makes the password more complex to guess.
  3. Brute force Attack: An approach in which adversaries randomly generate passwords and character sets to guess repeatedly at passwords and to check them against an available cryptographic hash of the password.
  4. Password Spraying: A form of brute force attack that targets multiple accounts. In a traditional brute force attack, adversaries try multiple guesses of the password on a single account that often leads to account lockout. With password spraying, the adversary only tries a few of the most common passwords against multiple user accounts, trying to identify that one person who is using a default or easy-to-guess password and thus avoiding the account lockout scenario.
  5. Keylogging attack: By installing keylogging software on the victim’s machine through usually some form of email phishing attack, the adversary can capture the keystrokes of the victim to capture their username and passwords for their various accounts.
  6. Traffic Interception: Criminals use software like packet sniffers to monitor and capture the network traffic that contains password information. If the traffic is unencrypted or using weak encryption algorithms, then capturing the passwords becomes even easier.
  7. Man-in-the-middle: In this scenario, the adversary inserts themselves in the middle of the user and the intended website or application, usually by impersonate that website or application. The adversary then captures the username and password that the user enters into the fake site. Often email phishing attacks lead unsuspecting victims to these fake sites.
Edited by Jenna Delport
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