Dictionary Attack: A Guide to Meaning, Working and How to Prevent

Cyber attacks have become too common because so many people use digital technologies. As a result, there are now many different ways to attack. Brute-force attacks are the most common kind of attack. A dictionary attack is one type of brute-force attack. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the most important aspects of Dictionary attacks.

To understand a dictionary attack, let’s first learn about brute-force attacks.

What is a Brute-Force Attack?

Brute-force attacks are a type of cyberattack in which the hacker or cybercriminal tries different passwords until they find one that works. Most of the time, these attackers use automated software to do hit-and-try testing with many possible combinations.

Now, let’s move forward to dictionary attacks.

What is a Dictionary Attack?

Dictionary attack

A dictionary attack is a brute-force attack in which the attacker uses common words and phrases from a dictionary to guess passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). People usually use passwords and combinations that are easy to remember.

This makes it easier for attackers to use dictionary attacks since well-trained attackers don’t take long to figure out simple passwords. But dictionary attacks are less likely to work if users use complicated passwords instead of their own or families’ names.

Indeed, dictionary attacks are less likely to happen when businesses take precautions like changing passwords often, using Two-Factor Authentication, etc.

Even though dictionary attacks are getting smarter, they can still be stopped by using passwords with capital letters, lowercase letters, special characters, and random combinations.

Next, let’s understand the effects of dictionary attacks.

What is the Effect of Dictionary Attack?

Dictionary attacks have a wide range of effects, about the same as any other cyberattack. It can also cause computer and network systems to lose data or get hurt. Dictionary attacks often steal sensitive information and data.

Breaking the system password and PIN leaves the computer and network systems open to future dictionary attacks. This is because attackers can figure out a system’s password pattern once a password has been broken.

So, in the future, they won’t have to put in a lot of work to break into the system. 

Moving forward, let’s look into the working of dictionary attacks.

How Does a Dictionary Attack Work? 

A dictionary attack relies solely on assumptions to function. A dictionary attack is based on common preselected libraries of phrases and potential passwords, such as ‘pass123’, ‘1234’, and ‘p1234’, etc.

Sometimes, hackers use demographic and lifestyle trends to guess the correct password or PIN. For instance, a young person residing in Spain or any other European nation might use a password such as “messi123” or “foot1234ball,” etc.

Similarly, if a hacker attempts to break into the computer system of a company’s operations department, the assumed password could be ‘ops1234’ or ‘opspass1234’, etc. Dictionary attackers can perform hit-and-trial with a long list of predictable passwords.

In order to avoid manual hits and trials, attackers employ automated software and mechanisms.

Now, if the list of presumptive passwords is short enough, there is a good chance that the attack will be carried out smoothly and quickly. However, if the list is sufficiently long, the chance of a successful attempt decreases to zero.

Finally, let us learn the precautions to avoid dictionary attacks.

Also Read:

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Precautions to Prevent Dictionary Attack

When hackers are smart and well-trained, it’s easier for them to get the passwords. Nobody has any control over this because these dictionary attackers use software to check all possible password combinations on their own.

But we do have some control over how hard and safe passwords are. It is also important to take the suggested steps to stop dictionary and brute-force attacks and defend against them. We can take the following steps to prevent an attack:

  • It is always best to use a strong, complicated password that is hard for hackers to figure out. Figuring out a random mix of special characters, capital letters, and small letters is hard. Even though dictionary attacks are not hard to crack, you can protect yourself from them by using passwords that are hard to guess.
  • Using captchas after multiple failed attempts to log in to your computer systems is a good way to protect against dictionary attacks. Today, captchas are highly recommended because they need to be typed in by hand. This makes it very hard for hackers to get in without permission, which stops attacks. Reports show that the number of dictionary attacks has gone down when strong captchas are used to let users log in. 
  • To keep passwords secure, you need to change passwords often. Computer and network systems are now set up so that users are reminded to change their passwords often. Every system has a set amount of time between when passwords need to be changed. In fact, corporate systems and accounts are updated every 30 days or even less often, like every 15 days. If users don’t change their passwords, the system may automatically sign them out. So, it’s important to keep changing your password.


In Summary, cyber-attacks are on the rise, so we must take every precaution to prevent them.

Using complicated passwords is the best way to protect your computer and network from dictionary attacks. In this blog, we have also learned what precautions to take. With this information, we hope you can set up complex, high-security passwords to protect your systems.

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