How do Hackers Steal Passwords? 10 common ways

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common ways how hackers steal passwords

Have you ever received an email that appears to be a security alert from a service you trust? You get worried, leading you to click a link and input your credentials, unwittingly handing over your password to a hacker. This is a classic example of how hackers steal passwords.

Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, employing various methods to compromise your data. From keylogging, which captures every keystroke you make, to exploiting vulnerabilities within the software and even resorting to shoulder surfing to obtain your credentials, their tactics are varied and increasingly ingenious. These methods demonstrate the lengths hackers will go to to access sensitive information.

In response to the escalating demands for robust security measures, understanding cybercriminals’ full spectrum of tactics is crucial. This blog is designed to arm you with the knowledge to identify potential threats and the tools to shield yourself from further damage.

10 Common Ways Hackers Use to Steal Passwords

Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks involve systematically guessing passwords until the correct combination is found. While this method may seem rudimentary, it can be highly effective, especially against weak or reused passwords. Hackers utilise automated tools to rapidly generate and test numerous password combinations, exploiting vulnerabilities in poorly designed authentication systems. To mitigate the risks of this attack, using strong, complex passwords and implementing multi-factor authentication where possible is crucial. Additionally, implementing account lockout mechanisms after several failed login attempts can also help prevent brute-force attacks.

brute force attacks


Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a technique where hackers use stolen username and password combinations obtained from data breaches to gain unauthorised access to other accounts belonging to the same users. Since many individuals reuse passwords across multiple platforms, hackers capitalise on this behaviour to infiltrate other accounts and perpetrate fraudulent activities. To combat credential stuffing, users should adopt unique passwords for each account and regularly monitor for suspicious login attempts.


Keylogging is another tool hackers use that involves using malicious software or malware to record keystrokes entered by users, thereby capturing sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and personal messages. Hackers deploy keyloggers through phishing emails, infected websites, or compromised software. Once installed on a victim’s device, keyloggers operate covertly in the background, silently intercepting keystrokes and transmitting the stolen data to remote servers controlled by the attackers. To mitigate this attack, users should regularly update their antivirus software and be cautious when clicking on links or downloading files from unknown sources.

Also read: Common Types of Keylogger and Examples

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

In a man-in-the-middle attack, hackers intercept communications between two parties, such as a user and a website, without their knowledge and steal credentials. By positioning themselves between the victim and the intended recipient, hackers can eavesdrop on sensitive information exchanged, including login credentials. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks commonly occur on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, allowing hackers to intercept data packets transmitted between devices once they gain access to a network switch.

Safeguard your privacy, passwords, and online account information by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts data entering or leaving your device and channels it through a secure portal. Additionally, a VPN masks your IP address, ensuring private internet browsing. Strengthen your defences against MitM attacks by employing encrypted connections and secure protocols.

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Exploiting Software Vulnerabilities

Hackers get passwords by exploiting security vulnerabilities in software applications or operating systems to gain unauthorised access to systems and steal passwords. These vulnerabilities may arise due to unpatched software, misconfigurations, or design flaws.

Through the exploitation of software code weaknesses, hackers can execute actions such as remote code execution, SQL injection, or cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, compromising system integrity and extracting sensitive data, including passwords. To mitigate this threat, organisations should regularly update software, implement robust security configurations, and conduct thorough code reviews to identify and patch vulnerabilities promptly.

Social Engineering

Social engineering techniques involve manipulating individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions compromising security. Hackers exploit human psychology and trust to deceive users into revealing their passwords through pretexting, baiting, or impersonation. These attacks can take various forms, such as posing as tech support personnel or leveraging personal information obtained from social media to gain victims’ trust. To defend against social engineering attacks, you should verify the identity of individuals or entities requesting sensitive information and be cautious about sharing personal or confidential details, especially in response to unsolicited requests or messages.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing remains one of the most common and effective methods hackers use to steal passwords. In a phishing attack, hackers masquerade as legitimate entities, such as banks, social media platforms, or trusted organisations, and deceive users into providing their login credentials. This is often done through spoofed emails, fake websites, or malicious links.

Phishing attacks

Once users unwittingly enter their usernames and passwords, hackers gain access to their accounts, allowing them to steal sensitive information or perpetrate further attacks. To avoid phishing attacks and scams, you should always verify the legitimacy of emails and websites, avoid clicking on suspicious links or providing personal information through unsolicited messages, and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Also Read: How Can You Avoid Downloading Malicious Codes?

Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder surfing represents a simplistic approach employed by hackers to steal your passwords by covertly observing individuals as they input their information. This method is commonly deployed in busy or public environments, like cafes, airports, or public transit, where people may inadvertently expose their screens to potential snoopers.

Attackers gather the data required to compromise accounts and steal sensitive data by discreetly monitoring keystrokes or screen activity. To guard against this attack, you should be vigilant in shielding their screens, using privacy filters, or entering passwords in a way that makes it difficult for observers to discern the input.

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Password Spraying

Password spraying is a technique hackers use to gain unauthorised access to multiple user accounts by systematically testing a few commonly used passwords against many usernames. Unlike brute force attacks, which involve testing multiple passwords against a single username, password spraying reverses the approach by testing a small set of passwords against numerous usernames.

This method reduces the risk of detection by avoiding multiple failed login attempts for the same account, making it harder for security systems to detect and block suspicious activity. To mitigate the risk of password spraying attacks, you can implement measures such as creating strong passwords, employing multi-factor authentication (MFA), and monitoring login attempts for unusual patterns. Also, use a password manager that helps you generate unique and complex passwords and records passwords for all your online accounts.

Dictionary Attacks

Dictionary attacks are a common method hackers use to crack passwords. They employ pre-compiled lists of common passwords, phrases, or variations thereof to test against target accounts systematically. Hackers exploit human tendencies to choose weak passwords, making this method highly effective. Specialised software automates the process, iterating through the dictionary list to find matches. To defend against dictionary attacks, users should use strong, complex, long passwords with special characters and implement account lockout policies.

stealing password using dictionary methods

Know the Red Flags: Has Your Password been Hacked?

Understanding the indicators of your compromised password is essential for safeguarding your online security. When hackers access your password, they can exploit it to infiltrate your accounts, steal sensitive information, or engage in fraudulent activities. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  1. Unauthorised Account Access: If you notice any unauthorised activity in your accounts, such as unfamiliar logins or changes to account settings without your consent, it could indicate that your password has been hacked.
  2. Unexpected Emails or Messages: Be wary of receiving unexpected emails or messages claiming to be from legitimate companies or contacts, especially if they request sensitive information or prompt you to click on suspicious links. This can be an effort by phishers to obtain your login information.
  3. Spam and Unusual Activity: An increase in spam emails sent from your account or unusual activity, such as messages you didn’t send or posts you didn’t make on social media platforms, may indicate your account has been compromised.
  4. Unusual Password Reset Requests: If you receive password reset emails or notifications for accounts you didn’t request, it could be a sign that someone is attempting to change your password without your knowledge.
  5. Difficulty Logging In: If you find it suddenly difficult to log in to your accounts, even with the correct password, it could be a sign that someone else has gained access and changed the password.
  6. Data Breach Notifications: Keep an eye out for notifications from companies or websites you have accounts with informing you of a data breach that may have exposed your login credentials.
  7. Unexplained Financial Transactions: Unauthorised charges or withdrawals on your bank or credit card statements could suggest that your accounts have been compromised, possibly through stolen login credentials.

Also Read: What is password security and protection?

Remember, a proactive approach is far more empowering than a reactive scramble. Experience peace of mind with our managed security services! Our extensive services ensure 24/7 monitoring, rapid threat detection, and swift responses, effectively guarding you against cyber threats.

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Contact us to assess and address your vulnerabilities, preventing hackers from causing significant harm to your online accounts, finances, and credit.

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