The following topics are covered in this blog:

Before we start with the meaning of “Dictionary Attack”, let’s first understand what “Brutforce Attacks” are, as dictionary attacks fall into the category of these types of attacks.

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What are brute force attacks?

Brute force attacks are types of attacks in which a hacker or cybercriminal performs a trial-and-error method to identify the passwords of a computer or network system in order to gain access. In most cases, these attackers use automated software to test a large number of possible combinations.

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What is a dictionary attack?

We have already discussed brute force attacks in the section above so that it is easy to understand “dictionary attacks”. So, a dictionary attack is nothing more than a form of brute force attack in which the attacker uses common and easily recognizable words plus phrases from a dictionary to crack passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). It is often seen that people keep simple combinations and easy to remember passwords. This helps attackers to easily perform dictionary attacks, as cracking easier passwords does not take time for these trained dictionary attackers.

But vocabulary attack attempts can fail when users have a complex set of passwords, not just the names of family members or themselves as their passwords. The chances of dictionary attacks can be rare in situations where the business has a policy of practicing safeguards such as regular password changes, two-factor authentication, etc. Nowadays, although dictionary attacks are becoming more complex, it is possible to prevent them by using uppercase and lowercase passwords, along with special characters and random combinations.

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Work on dictionary attacks

The operation of a vocabulary attack depends solely on assumptions. The dictionary attack bases its judgment on some of the common pre-selected libraries of phrases and possible passwords such as ‘pass123’, ‘1234’ and ‘p1234’, etc. Hackers sometimes also use demographic and lifestyle trends to adopt the correct password or PIN. For example, a young person residing in Spain or another European country may have a password such as “messi123” or “foot1234ball”, etc. Similarly, if a hacker tries to break into the computer system of a company’s operations department, it is assumed that the password may be ‘ops1234’ or ‘opspass1234’, and so on. The list of predictable passwords is long enough for dictionary attackers to test. That’s why attackers use automated software and mechanisms to avoid manual strikes and attempts.

Now, if the list of pre-accepted passwords is short enough, the attack has a good chance of going smoothly, and for a short period of time. However, if the list is long enough, the chances of successful attempts become smaller, if not completely zero.

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Effects of vocabulary attacks

The effects of vocabulary attacks are numerous and no less than any other cyber attack. This can result in data loss or damage to your computer and network systems. Vocabulary attacks tend to steal confidential data and information. By punching the system password and PIN, they leave computer and network systems vulnerable to more dictionary attacks in the future. This is because once the password is hacked, attackers get an idea of ​​the password trends for a particular system. Therefore, they do not require much effort in the future to penetrate the system. One well-known example of dictionary attacks is the “Solar Winds Data Breach” case, where some Russian dictionary hackers managed to crack the Solar Winds administrator password. After cracking the password, the attackers bet a backdoor, which is activated when the employees of the organization using the systems upgrade the software. In this case, however, there was a lack of appropriate preventive measures against the solar wind. The password – “solarwind123” had low security and was therefore compromised and easily deciphered by the attackers.

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Precautions to deal with vocabulary attacks

When attackers are experienced and professionally trained, it becomes easier to crack passwords. No one has control over this, as these dictionary attackers use automated software to check all possible password combinations. But we have control over the security and complexity of passwords. It is also required to follow some proposed precautions to prevent and combat vocabulary and brute force attacks. These are:

  • It is always recommended to use a strong and complex password, which proves difficult to be decoded by attackers. It is difficult to guess any combination of special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters. Although not difficult to crack, keeping complex passwords can help combat maximum vocabulary attack attempts.
  • Another important preventive measure is to avoid repeated entry. Each time you log in again, there is a waiting time of 1 / 10th of a second. Although it may seem smaller, it is enough for dictionary attackers to break into the system. Therefore, best practice to prevent vocabulary attacks is to avoid unnecessary recurring entries.
  • Using captchas in case you have failed to log on to your computer systems several times is an important measure to prevent dictionary attacks. Nowadays, the use of captchas is highly recommended as it requires manual input, which helps prevent attack attempts as unauthorized entry becomes very difficult. According to reports, dictionary attacks have decreased in cases where violent captchas are used to allow the user to log in.
  • The self-locking feature helps a lot to mitigate the losses caused by dictionary attacks. Configuring self-locking systems in the event of multiple failed login attempts is one of the most effective measures to deal with dictionary attacks. When a system locks itself in, there is no room left for dictionary attackers to carry out the attack. One such example of a self-locking system is that of an iOS system, in which the iPhone locks completely and deletes all data after 10 failed attempts.
  • Regular password refresh is very important to maintain password security. Nowadays, computer and network systems are pre-configured to regularly remind users to update their passwords. All systems have a set interval in which passwords must be changed. In fact, corporate accounts and systems have 30 days or even shorter time intervals, such as 15 days. If passwords are not updated, users can also log out automatically. Therefore, refreshing passwords is very important. One thing to note here is that every time you refresh the password, it must be unique and complex, even though you are in a hurry.


From this blog, we’ve tried to explain how dictionary attacks can use your weak passwords and PINs to harm your systems and steal confidential and important data. Cyberattacks are only increasing and we must therefore be prepared at every step to prevent these attacks. The first step in preventing dictionary attacks begins with keeping strong passwords for maximum protection on your computer and network systems. In this blog we also learned what precautions to take. Therefore, we hope that it will help you with the necessary knowledge to protect your systems with complex passwords with a high degree of security.

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