Offline Attacks | System Hacking

Offline attacks are performed from a location other than the actual computer where the passwords reside or were used. Offline attacks usually require physical access to the computer and copying the password file from the system onto removable media. The hacker then takes the file to another computer to perform the cracking. Several types of offline password attacks exist, as you can see in Table 1.
Table 1: Offline attacks 
Type of attack
Example password
Dictionary attack
Attempts to use passwords from a list of dictionary words
Hybrid attack
Substitutes numbers of symbols for password characters
Brute-force attack
Tries all possible combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters
A dictionary attack is the simplest and quickest type of attack. It's used to identify a password that is an actual word, which can be found in a dictionary. Most commonly, the attack uses a dictionary file of possible words, which is hashed using the same algorithm used by the authentication process. Then, the hashed dictionary words are compared with hashed passwords as the user logs on, or with passwords stored in a file on the server. The dictionary attack works only if the password is an actual dictionary word; therefore, this type of attack has some limitations. It can't be used against strong passwords containing numbers or other symbols.
A hybrid attack is the next level of attack a hacker attempts if the password can't be found using a dictionary attack. The hybrid attack starts with a dictionary file and substitutes numbers and symbols for characters in the password. For example, many users add the number 1 to the end of their password to meet strong password requirements. A hybrid attack is designed to find those types of anomalies in passwords.
The most time-consuming type of attack is a brute-force attack, which tries every possible combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A brute-force attack is the slowest of the three types of attacks because of the many possible combinations of characters in the password. However, brute force is effective; given enough time and processing power, all passwords can eventually be identified.
rainbow table is a list of dictionary words that have already been hashed. Rainbow tables can speed up the discovery and cracking of passwords by pre-computing the hashes for common strings of characters. For example, a rainbow table can include characters from a to z or A to Z. Essentially, rainbow table tools are hash crackers. A traditional brute-force cracker will try all possible plaintext passwords one by one in order. It is time consuming to break complex passwords in this way. The idea of rainbow tables is to do all cracking-time computation in advance.

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