Brute Force Attacks: 7 Ways These Hackers Cause an Enormous Headache

How hackers use brute force to smash into your website.

Brute force attacks on your website or blog can disrupt your income, trash your reputation, and destroy your credibility. That problem is one that no blogger or website owner can afford! You have several key responsibilities as a freelance writer, blogger, or online business owner. 

You must do the following things to create a safe online space:

  • Protect subscriber or user data from hackers (including email, phone number, address, etc.) 
  • Secure any payment or credit card data entered into your site by your customers or subscribers. 
  • Make your brand trusted so your growth continues.

Customers or clients can file a lawsuit if you fail to create a safe online environment. You might incur monetary penalties that would destroy your business. A brute force attack is among the most nefarious cybercrimes happening to small business websites and blogs today.

What Is a Brute Force Attack?

A brute force attack is the digital equivalent of a paramilitary unit trying to kick in your front door with a battering ram.

These attacks consist of a hacker, or often a group of hackers, repeatedly using trial and error techniques to guess your username and password or encryption keys until they gain entry. The hackers use software and bots to batter on your log-in page until they find the correct combination and finally beat down your “door.”

Using AI or a sophisticated app, a cybercriminal with a run-of-the-mill computer can deploy bots that will guess your password 100,00 times per second. Using a supercomputer amps that up tremendously.

And if the hacker works in a ring and sets several computers to work trying to break into your site, the threat escalates even higher.

These attacks are becoming alarmingly common and increasingly coming from foreign lands with dubious business practices. Make what you will of that statement.

Brute force attacks notifications from an actual website.

What happens if a hacker gains entry in a brute force attack?

You might wonder why one would put all the effort into getting into your little e-commerce shop, blog, or website. You might think your website has little to offer, but it might be a treasure trove to someone with ill intentions.

7 Possible Outcomes of a Brute Force Attack

Here are seven things a hacker can do in a brute force attack:

Note that some of the information I’m sharing is universal. Other facts are specific to WordPress, as that is what I can speak to. Because WP is the most used platform in the world, it is a great place to start. However, you can find comparable solutions without a WP developer or user.

1 – They don’t want you to understand all the havoc they could wreak

Once the hacker enters via a brute force attack, they can deploy bots that they program to do many different tasks:

  • The bots might collect all your users’ emails and passwords. In turn, they will have a good guess at all your users’ bank info, email, and social media log-ins. 
  • The bots could collect any stored payment data. (You should not be storing payment data, but keeping it real–some websites do).
  • The bots could launch malware that spreads viruses or spyware. 

2 – They could demonetize your site

  • They might deploy malware to shred your website for their entertainment intentionally. 
  • The hackers could display pornography or other graphic content to shock site users. Not only does this destroy your online reputation, but it also would demonetize your website as a violation of Amazon and Google rules. This action can take away a blogger’s livelihood within minutes. 
  • If you run Google AdSense, they could insert a spammy ad under your nose. If it escapes your notice, the hacker begins profiting off your traffic.
  • They could hijack your traffic to their site and benefit from your users’ clicks.

3 – You can slow down or stop these attacks with good password habits

There’s a perfect reason that your WordPress site or Gmail account prompts you to create passwords with a particular length (usually eight characters, minimum) and special characters, upper case letters, and other variations.

What is the reason? Your password is your first line of defense. 

Here are a few good password habits you should immediately adopt:

  • Make each of your passwords at least 12 characters, if not more. Because the eight-character password is the “standard,” cyber criminals start with the familiar prescribed formula.
  • Change your passwords regularly. Internet security specialist Jo O’Reilly of ProPrivacy weighed in on this in Business Insider in a July 2020 article. She recommends changing it every three months. Other experts warn that when you change passwords, don’t become lazy. Don’t reuse an old one; choose another strong password again.
  • Choose passphrases instead of passwords. The computers that decode your password have an easier time cracking a single word than a phrase.
  • Don’t choose your spouse, children, or pet names. These are far too easy and will be some of the first guesses. They can find this information quickly on your social media.
  • Keep your passwords confidential. 

4 – Two-factor authentication sucks for hackers

Two-factor authentication is a solid fallback position if your password is a first line of defense.

Two-factor authentication, or multi-factor authentication, annoys many people. However, don’t hesitate to install it. Even though some users don’t like it, most recognize that it adds security and safety to your platform.

You’re probably familiar with this idea–it’s why you now often receive a text, enter a fingerprint, or use an app to log into some websites. In other words, you must enter the correct username and password and prove your identity before accessing your account. It is available on many banking websites, social media apps, PayPal, and more.

Yes, this option is also available if you are a WordPress user. Sadly, they should be shouting about this safety feature from the rooftops. But they’re not. 

5 – You can offer multi-factor authentication to your WordPress users

MFA is fantastic for your blog or website security and adds value to your visitors, subscribers, and customers. Like almost everything with WordPress, you go to the plug-in page, choose the tool you like the most, and activate it. Boom! You just impressed the heck out of security-minded users. 

6 – You can limit log-in attempts to minimize the risk of brute force attacks

  • You can install plug-ins that will limit a user’s log-in attempts. You can customize these plug-ins to lock out any given IP address after a specific number of attempts (you decide!).  
  • You also get to decide on the length of time that they stay locked out. Setting a longer time before the next logging attempt can disrupt the hacking, buying you time to receive an alert and take countermeasures.
  • Hackers are opportunists. They prey on weaknesses in your security. 
  • Beyond a good password, installing multi-factor authentication, and limiting log-in attempts, keep your website in tip-top shape. 
  • Run plug-in updates, as they often contain security patches. Not installing updates leaves you vulnerable to brute force attacks and other hacks. 
  • Check over user id and permissions settings. Do you have contributors or editors who no longer collaborate with your team? Change their permission to “author.” While you are at it, override their password. If they attempt a password change, you’ll receive an email notification.
  • Make sure your data collection forms are safe and secure. Use a well-known form provider.
  • Check your WordPress dashboard for any security recommendations. Performing website security tasks is dull, but it is a responsibility you must not ignore.

Summing It Up: Brute force attacks are an ever-present danger

Brute force attacks happen. There is not any 100% sure way to eliminate the threat. As technology evolves to thwart these efforts, the hackers continue to write new code to work around it. However, these security measures are best practices you must adopt immediately. You owe it to yourself and your clients. Remember, we are here to serve your content creation needs, so feel free to reach out to us.

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