Password Breaker

What Does Password Breaker Mean?

A password breaker is a cryptographic software application tool that is designed to identify or recover an unknown or forgotten username/password of a secure resource, like a network or computer system. It is used to discern passwords contained in the hacked hashed (encrypted) password list of an infiltrated system.


A password breaker is also known as a password cracker.

Techopedia Explains Password Breaker

To break into a system, a password breaker needs its dictionary and stolen hashed password list. Common password creation rules are applied to a dictionary to form possible passwords that are hashed and compared to the stolen hashed list. One or more matches indicate the use of a real password for that system.

Due to time restraints, password breakers do not make repeated system login attempts. Additionally, automation prevention measures are included in modern security systems. Some systems permit only a few incorrect attempts before blocking an account.

Password breakers use two common methods for cracking passwords: brute-force attacks and dictionary attacks. A dictionary attack is straightforward because until one or more matches are found, it simply compares the hashed items to the contents of a dictionary that contains known passwords. On the other hand, a brute-force attack iterates through every available permutation, like trying hello1 then hello2, then 3, then 4 and so on – without a hint of intelligence.

A more sophisticated method involving rules occurs with more complex passwords. In this type of attack, users may apply password creation rules to the dictionary to create more complex passwords, which are then hashed and compared to the stolen list.

Cracking can take anywhere from a few minutes to days, weeks or years, depending on password complexity. However, the process is expedited by using graphics processing units (GPU), which are supported by modern password breakers, like John the Ripper and Hashcat.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…