There’s no doubt that we’re living in the digital era where everything is done online – from buying groceries to doing taxes, we can do everything from the comfort of our homes. Because of this, the amount of personal information that can be stolen is not only massive but also very profitable for the hackers lurking in the shadows. Among the many methods that cyber terrorists have in their arsenal, password spraying specifically is becoming more and more popular.
What Is a Password Spraying Attack?
Password spraying is a cyber attack where the hacker attempts to access various accounts simultaneously by using commonly used passwords. In other words, the criminal uses easy keys such as “Password123” for multiple accounts at the same time, and if it doesn't work, they move on to a second password, and so on. By using this technique, the malicious actor is able to remain undetected by avoiding frequent account lockouts. Although these types of attacks target companies more often, such as the recent example of Citrix, personal accounts aren't safe either.
The consequences of a successful password spraying attack can be catastrophic. For companies, it can translate into the exposure of confidential data that may damage the organization's reputation and lead to extensive financial losses. For individuals, hackers may get access to credit card details, legal documents, and anything else you can imagine.
How to Know You've Fallen Victim to a Password Spraying Attack
There are several ways to understand if a password spraying attack is targeting you or your company. The red flags you should notice right away are a high number of authentication attempts, failed login attempts, generic username lists, and account lockouts. Another way to understand if you're being attacked is by looking at the login success versus failure rate per IP address. Of course, if the IP address is located in an unusual place, then most likely a hacker is targeting you.
Preventing Password Spraying Attacks
Fortunately, there are various options to prevent these attacks from being successful. The very first step to take is to create complex and random passwords containing both capital and uppercase letters, special characters, and digits. Repeating keys is also a big no-no. By having duplicate passwords, the hacker will try right away to breach all other accounts with the same password and will have an easier time doing so.
However, even after taking all these steps, you're still not in the clear. For starters, it's crucial to change passwords from time to time. It is so important that companies have a policy that ensures users switch their credentials every couple of months. Implementing multifactor authentication is also an excellent prevention method. This way, if a hacker tries to access an account by brute force or from a remote IP location, the user gets notified by email or SMS.
For companies, the best solution is having the IT team or the SIEM solution perform correlations of logs from multiple sources, so it's possible to detect and actively block password spraying.
The Life Savers Called Password Managers
Creating complex, random, and lengthy passwords sounds excellent but how can someone remember so many different passwords that have no logic whatsoever? You could always write each key down on paper every time a new one is created. However, this method would be time-consuming, having to look for your scrap of paper every time you wanted to log in to one of your many accounts. The best answer for managing all your passwords and ensuring they're secure is by using a password manager.
Password managers enable you to save all your passwords in one place for easy access. Usually, this type of service offers end-to-end encryption and has a zero-knowledge structure to ensure that no one, besides you, is able to get a glimpse of your credentials. The vault is protected by a master password provided by the user, which is the key to decrypt all stored information. It goes without saying that a master password should be as tough to crack as possible so that nobody is ever able to guess it.
Most password managers also come with a password generator that creates secure passwords with the click of a button, eliminating the trouble of creating sophisticated keys every time you want to create a new account. Another feature that helps tremendously in the battle against password spraying is the password audit that analyzes all stored passwords and gives a warning about weak or duplicated keys.
There's no question that the internet has changed our lives for the better. However, we should always bear in mind that malevolent individuals are also out there. We must arm ourselves with the best weapons to fight them and, when it comes to password spraying, password managers are an excellent shield to have.
Best Password Managers of 2020
|Editor's Choice 2020|