Wondering what is a brute force attack and how to protect your website from it?

If you own a WordPress website, it’s crucial to understand the potential threats it may face. One such threat is a brute force attack. This hacking method is the most common risk vector for web applications and platforms, accounting for 80% of all recorded attacks [1]. So, what is a brute force attack exactly?

In a sentence, brute force is a hacking technique where an attacker systematically attempts various combinations of usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to a system or website.

Read on to learn more about brute force attacks and how to safeguard your WordPress site from these malicious activities effectively.

Understanding what a brute force attack is

To gain more understanding of this cyber threat, here are a few points to consider.

Types of brute force attacks

There are multiple types of brute force attacks:

Simple brute force attack: The hacker tries several possible combinations of usernames and passwords until they find the correct credentials. This method is time-consuming but straightforward, as it relies on the exhaustive trial-and-error approach.

Dictionary attack: This attack uses pre-generated lists of commonly used passwords, words from dictionaries, and personal information related to the target. Attackers automate the process of testing these combinations against the login page, significantly speeding up the attack.

Hybrid brute force attack: Hybrid attacks combine elements of simple brute force and dictionary attacks. Instead of trying all possible combinations, hackers use a mix of common passwords and variations, such as adding numbers or symbols, to increase their chances of success.

Credential stuffing: This involves using stolen login credentials from one platform to gain unauthorized access to another. Attackers rely on the common practice of reusing passwords across multiple accounts to exploit this vulnerability.

Reverse brute force attacks: The attacker fixes a known password and systematically tries different usernames until they find the correct one. This method is particularly effective when targeting systems with weak username selection or public usernames.

Reasons behind brute force attacks

Brute force attacks are conducted for various reasons:

Gain unauthorized access: Attackers may attempt to gain access to your WordPress site to steal sensitive information, deface your website, or inject malicious code for their own purposes.

Personal vendettas: Hackers may launch brute force attacks against specific individuals, organizations, or websites out of personal vendettas or ideological motivations. These attacks can aim to disrupt services, deface websites, or cause reputational damage to the target.

Resource abuse: Some attackers conduct brute force attacks to gain control over a system’s computing resources. They may use compromised systems to launch additional attacks, distribute spam emails, mine cryptocurrency, or participate in botnet activities.

Methods to protect your WordPress site

There are several ways to protect your WordPress website from brute force attacks:

Strong and unique passwords: Ensure that you and all users on your WordPress site have strong, unique passwords. A strong password consists of a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Limit login attempts: Implement a plugin that restricts the number of login attempts allowed within a specific timeframe. This helps in blocking automated brute force attacks, as they won’t be able to guess the correct credentials within the limited attempts.

Two-factor authentication (2FA): 2FA adds another layer of security to your WordPress login process. It requires users to provide a second form of verification, such as a unique code sent to their mobile device, in addition to their password.

Implement IP whitelisting: Restrict access to your WordPress admin area by allowing only specific IP addresses or IP ranges to access it. This can be achieved through security plugins or by configuring your server settings.

Final thoughts

Brute force attacks pose a significant threat to WordPress websites. However, by knowing what is a brute force attack, understanding its nature, and implementing the right security measures, you can effectively protect your site.


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