In cryptanalysis and computer security, a dictionary attack is a technique for defeating a cipher or authentication mechanism by trying to determine its decryption key or passphrase by trying likely possibilities, such as words in a dictionary.
A dictionary attack uses a targeted technique of successively trying all the words in an exhaustive list called a dictionary (from a pre-arranged list of values). In contrast with a brute force attack, where a large proportion key space is searched systematically, a dictionary attack tries only those possibilities which are most likely to succeed, typically derived from a list of words for example a dictionary (hence the phrase dictionary attack). Generally, dictionary attacks succeed because many people have a tendency to choose passwords which are short (7 characters or fewer), single words found in dictionaries or simple, easily predicted variations on words, such as appending a digit. However these are easy to defeat. Adding a single random character in the middle can make dictionary attacks untenable.
Last Revised: 2015-07-01