Token Cracking

Article Contents

    What is token cracking?

    Token cracking is a term used in cybersecurity to describe the cracking of authentication or identification tokens, which are cryptographic keys that are generated by online services. Tokens are often sent to users via text message on their mobile devices.

    Tokens may be used for multi-factor authentication (MFA), where an additional factor of authentication is required if the user wants to access data from an unknown device or location. This form of two-step verification is intended to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data, but it’s possible for cybercriminals to gain access using brute force methods. This can result in identity theft and other types of fraud If the token is compromised, the attacker gains complete control over the victim’s account and can track all activity and change or delete information.

    How it works

    Different types of tokens are used for different services. A hardware token is a physical device that is usually linked to an account number and contains authentication credentials, such as a serial number or key, which activate the correct sequence to generate the security code. Other tokens may be made up of just one digital certificate stored on a USB flash drive.

    The server verifying the authenticity of the token uses two elements:

    • it checks that the user’s password has been entered correctly
    • it also runs the hardware through a cryptographic algorithm to verify its integrity, so only an intact token can be accepted as valid.

    If a hacker manages to tamper with the token at any stage in this process, they will gain access to authorized accounts.

    Trying to get past a token

    Attackers can exploit a number of different methods, including:

    • obtaining personal information about the user and trying this as an alternative access technique
    • accessing other devices on the network and logging into the account from there
    • cracking passwords on locally installed apps on Android or iOS devices
    • using malware that will relay communications via another device with unrestricted Internet access
    • obtaining details of popular services and guessing common passwords
    • using brute force methods to gain access by trying different possible combinations of tokens or passwords.

    Ensuring your data is secure

    It’s important to keep the software running on all devices up-to-date so that they have the most effective protection against cybercriminals, who are constantly developing new methods of attack.  Make sure you choose strong passwords for all online accounts and avoid reusing them across different services where possible.

    Frequently asked questions about token cracking

    Who is most at risk?

    High-value users, such as senior executives and individuals with access to critical information are most at risk. They are often targets of social engineering attacks, so it’s important they have an awareness of the different types of cyberthreats faced by businesses today. It’s also important to protect personal devices carefully in order to reduce risks when logging into work accounts, which may be running older operating systems that don’t receive security updates.

    What should you do if an attack has taken place?

    You need to change all of your user names and passwords immediately. If you’ve already had tokens sent out, this should be done as soon as possible. New tokens will have to be requested for each account, so it’s important to keep track of which services these are used for so that they can be restored quickly.

    What other ways are there of protecting your data?

    Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is gaining popularity across the globe thanks to its ability to protect online accounts against unauthorized access using two or more forms of identification rather than just one. Two-step verification is usually implemented via SMS, where users receive a unique code on their mobile phones or via email.

    Are tokens the only option for MFA?

    No, security keys and biometric methods such as fingerprint recognition can also be used. Magnetic stripe cards and portable devices with integrated MFA technology can also be an effective solution in some cases. This allows you to use different factors depending on the situation, so that employees may need just one method of authentication while traveling, for example. A security code is usually required along with a PIN number when logging into accounts from a new location.

    What does token cracking mean in cybersecurity?

    Token cracking refers to the process carried out by attackers who exploit weaknesses in hardware and software to access user accounts without correctly authenticating themselves using their credentials. These attacks are becoming more common due to the increased use of tokens as a method of multi-factor authentication across a range of different online services.

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