Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Welcome back, my aspiring cyberwarriors!
In this series on password cracking, I have been attempting to develop your skills in the age-old art of password cracking. Although it might seem like a simple and straightforward exercise, those of you who have attempted password cracking know that there are many subtleties to this art.
In many of our password cracking disciplines, we often need to use a wordlist that will essentially attempt thousands of potential passwords per second. This is often referred to as a dictionary attack, even though we need not rely solely on dictionary words. These wordlists may have any combination of characters and words in an attempt to crack a complex password offline.
Sometimes we may have indications of the target's choice password or password components which may come from our knowledge of the target, e.g. girlfriend, neighbor, friend, etc. It could be their name, children's names, a pet's name, birthday, or job. We may also know the organization's password policy (e.g. minimum 8 characters, uppercase and lowercase, etc.).
In these cases, we may be able to generate a custom wordlist that reflects our knowledge of the target or the organization's password policy.
Kali Linux has built into it a tool called "crunch" that enables us to create a custom password-cracking wordlist that we can use with such tools like hashcat, Cain and Abel, John the Ripper, aircrack-ng, and others. This custom wordlist might be able to save us hours or days in password cracking if we can craft it properly.
Let's get started with crunch and generate some custom wordlists to crack passwords in our favorite password cracking tool.
Step #1: Fire Up Kali and Open Crunch
Let's start by firing up Kali and opening crunch by going to Kali Linux -> Password Attacks -> crunch.
You can also just enter the command "crunch"to start this tool.
This will open the crunch screen like that below.
Unlike many other hacking applications, crunch doesn't provide us with much info in its opening screen. I believe that's because crunch, although relatively simple to work with initially, has so many sophisticated options that the developer has put much of the information in man pages.
Step #2: The Crunch Syntax
The basic syntax for crunch looks like this:
kali > crunch <min> max<max> <character set> -t <pattern> -o <output filename>
Now, let's go over what's included in the syntax above.
min = The minimum password length.
max = The maximum password length.
character set = The character set to be used in generating the passwords.
-t <pattern> = The specified pattern of the generated passwords. For instance, if you knew that the target's birthday was 0728 (July 28th) and you suspected they used their birthday in their password (people often do), you could generate a password list that ended with 0728 by giving crunch the pattern @@@@@@@0728. This word generate passwords up to 11 characters (7 variable and 4 fixed) long that all ended with 0728.
-o <outputfile> = This is the file you want your wordlist written to.
Step 3: The Crunch Manual
Let's go to the man pages for crunch by entering:
kali > man crunch
This should open the manual pages for crunch like that below. The developers of crunch have packed these pages with a lot of info on how to get the most out of crunch.
If we page down a bit in these man pages, we will come to this page.
At the top we see the -f switch. This switch allows us to choose the character set we want to use to generate our wordlist. The syntax is:
-f /path/to/charset.lst <charactersetname>
Here we tell crunch where the charset.lst is with the full path and then select a particular character set from that list. In Kali, the charset.lst is at:
Step 4: Create Some Simple Wordlists Let's start by generating some simple wordlists for password cracking. Let's assume that we know the company has passwords between 4 and 8 characters. We can generate all the possibilities in crunch by typing: kali > crunch 4 8
Where the first number (4) is the shortest word length and the second (8) is the longest word length.
When we execute this statement, crunch estimates how large the file will be (1812 GB) and then begins to generate the list. In this case, the file size is probably larger than we want to work with.
What if we knew that the target always used number passwords between 6 and 8 characters? We could generate a complete list of password possibilities meeting this criteria and send them to a file named numericwordlist.lst by entering:
kali>crunch 6 8 1234567890 -o numericwordlist.lst
If we knew that the target's birthday was July 28 and they likely used that date (people often use their birth dates in their passwords to make it easier to remember) at the end of a ten character password? We could generate all the possibilities of ten-character passwords that end with 0728 (July 28) and send the output to a filenamed birthdaywordlist.lst, by typing:
kali > crunch 10 10 -t @@@@@@0728 -o birthdaywordlist.lst
The @ sign is use to represent a wildcard of all possibilities, while the literals "0728" represent the fixed values.
Step 5: Complex Wordlists with Crunch
One of the beauties of crunch is the ability to select a specific character set or create your own character set for generating your password list. If we know the likely character set the target is using for their password, we can select the character set to generate our password list. We can find the choice of character sets at:
Now, if we know that our target is using an eight character password with only alphabetic characters, we can generate a list of all the possibilities in crunch with the command:
kali > crunch 8 8 -f /usr/share/crunch/charset.lst mixalpha -o alphawordlist.lst
This will generate all the 8-character passwords using only the alphabetic characters (no numbers or special characters) and storing them in a file named alphawordlist.txt.
When cracking passwords, there are multiple methods of cracking unknown passwords. These include dictionary, rainbow table, brute force and others. If we know that parameters of the password or know something about the target and their possible passwords (birthday, pet names, spouse, etc.), crunch can be a very useful tool for generating specific wordlists to be used in a dictionary-like attack.