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Attacks

Password Spraying Attack

The AppSec world is excessively haunted by cyberattacks that exist in numerous shapes and sizes. Starting from taking advantage of one’s gullibility to injecting highly dangerous malware, hackers are trying every best possible trick to conduct an attack. Password spraying is one such trick or cyberattack technique.

Learn more about this trick in this crisp guide by Wallarm.

Password Spraying Definition: A Quick Overview

For starters, it is not exactly an attack. Rather, it’s a technique that threat actors use to plot an attack. Many attacks involve gaining authorized access to applications/servers/emails and other digital resources. Hence, hackers try spraying the often-used passwords on the target and continue until intruding successfully.

One login detail is considered at a given time before jumping to other credentials. It's most commonly seen in an organization where usernames are common and easy to guess. Often, hackers target organizations using the SSO technique as one successful login can provide uninterrupted access to various other linked applications or digital resources.

How Does it Work?

The modus operandi of this threat is simple and can be stated as The hacker starting the research about the targeted organizations. Mostly, organizations with easy-to-guess login details are picked.

The login credentials of that relevant organization. They can buy it from the dark web or obtain it with social engineering.

The threat actor collects the common username and passwords and runs through them against a given account.

When one password is expired, hackers switch to another login set. The process continues until access is earned.

Business Implications

Password spraying, if not controlled at an early stage, can end up causing severe damage to the organization. Depending upon the intentions of the hacker, this method can compromise the account security and help cyberpunks to take advantage of privilege escalation.

The data captured from successful attempts often work as a foundation for various other lethal attacks.

Hackers can use this to steal financial information and steal money. If it continues, it can even exhaust the bank balance of an organization.

With each data breach or theft, the brand value and identity are severely damaged by the concerned business. It harms the trust that customers have in a business and they even stop transacting with the concerned business.

Examples of Password Spray Attack

This method is behind most data theft attacks and is most commonly seen in the real world. Here are a few examples for reference.

The organization grants usernames to the employees to access networks, servers, and databases. Cyberpunks have their hands on one of these login details and use it to enter the specified account illicitly.

Suppose a hacker is willing to compromise the account of a top-notch executive to steal mission-critical information. To make it happen, the hacker will take the help of password spraying to guess the right login details.

Examples of Password Spray
Examples of Password Spray

Password Spraying Vs. Brute Force

Brute Force is a variety of cyberattacks where hackers employ miscellaneous legit credentials to acquire unauthorized access to a given account.

Password spraying, as we all know, interests using one password against various accounts. The procedure persists until success is achieved.

Credential Stuffing Vs Password Spraying

As both techniques involve multiple login attempts, they do have some overlapping traits. However, there are evident differences. This is what you must need to know about credential stuffing vs. password spraying for better clarity.

Credential stuffing refers to an automated process of using stolen login credentials against services/applications. A couple of login details are processed at a time, and bots assist.

Conversely, password spraying entails employing familiar login credentials one by one to gain access to a given account.

Credential stuffing utilizes leaked credentials, whereas password spraying employs legitimate login data.

Password Spraying Detection

Early detection leads to less damage. Hence, it’s highly recommended to know the techniques that work as viable password-spraying detection approaches. One can be sure of being under attack when there are:

  • High login activities in a given time
  • Sudden hike in unsuccessful logins
  • Activation of non-existent or inactive accounts

Technologies or techniques that can help you detect all these activities are:

In addition, enterprises must have an active AppSec team ready to observe any abnormal login activities.

How do you Defend Against These Attacks?

To protect critical data and resources, preventing password spraying is important, and the below-mentioned techniques are of great help in this regard.

  1. Using strong passwords

Try to include special characters, digits, symbols, and lower & upper case in your password. Don’t include personal information or anything that is very obvious in the password.

  1. Use biometrics

Combine biometric verification with a strong password to make the account breach impossible. Biometrics are hard to copy as each human has a different fingerprint or retina structure.

  1. Multi-factor authentication

MFA combines two or more login processes and increases account security. Hacking MFA-backed accounts is tough for cyberpunks as they have to bypass multifold security layers.

  1. Use zero-trust policies

Trust no one and ask everyone to verify or authenticate themselves before accessing a database, application server, or network. This avoids access exploitation and is of great help in controlling access to a specific application.

  1. Login Detection

Ensure active login detection measures are in place so that frequent login attempts from the hosts can be tracked in real-time.

  1. Stronger Lockout Policies

One can reduce the possibilities of this threat by enforcing robust lockout policies that involve the complete shutdown of accounts or servers when they are not in use.

  1. Employee training

Last but not least, the recommendation is to spread awareness and train the employees to use strong passwords, feel responsible for password management, and take no actions resulting in or supporting password spraying.

Conclusion

Cyberattacks exist in multiple varieties, and hackers are becoming extra smart to cause damage beyond repair. Hence, one has to keep pace with evolving cybercrime landscape and get familiar with every possible way using which a hacker can harm a business/data/digital asset.

It is a leading technique that threat actors use to gain forced or unauthorized access to a given user account. It could be related to emails, servers, or networks. As the guide explained:

  • The attack is common and acts as the foundation for other attacks
  • Successful attack causes threats and damage at multiple levels
  • Its early detection and mitigation have to be the prime goal for every organization
  • It’s not the same as brute force or credential-stuffing attacks

Use the right kind of techniques and keep the possibilities for password spraying as low as possible.

FAQ

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Published:
Updated:
April 12, 2023
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