Created By: NateTheGreat on June 23, 2017 Last Edited By: NateTheGreat on November 10, 2017

Brute Force Code Cracking

Keep inputting codes until it works!

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Page Type:
trope
D.A.V.E. (Digitally Advanced Villain Emulator): A million possible security codes. Let's try them all!
The Batman, "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind"

In real life locks that require security codes will only allow a certain number of failed attempts before locking up and triggering an alarm. In fiction this doesn't happen, the lock just beeps and resets. This will allow someone (usually, but not always, a robot or speedster) to patiently input code after code until the door unlocks. Related to Password Slot Machine, and thus will go on the Insecurity System index.


Examples

Film Live Action Film - Live Action
  • In Spiderman Homecoming, when Peter gets locked into a time-locked vault, he uses his TI-83 calculator, notebook paper, a pencil, and the assistance of his AI, Karen, to run all possible permutations of the pass code until he arrives at the correct entry and the doors unlock and let him out. When he first arrived, Karen told him this was the most secure facility in the country, but it doesn't have cameras or motion detectors to detect movement inside of the facilities and neither the porting of an unauthorized device nor hundreds of incorrect pass code attempts trigger an alarm.
  • WarGames. When the NORAD Artificial Intelligence Joshua wants to launch the U.S. land-based ICBM force at the Soviet Union, he sends random combinations of alphanumeric characters to the computers controlling the missile silos until he hits the launch code.

Live-Action TV
  • In the episode "Attack on Central City" from The Flash (2014) our hero must deactivate a missile launcher by inputting the correct code into its control panel. His tech support allies specify that this type of security system won't set off the missile if an inaccurate code is inputted.

Western Animation
  • The Batman. D.A.V.E. is a robot who can crack a security code within five seconds by just entering possibilities into the panel until it opens the door.
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Great Brain Robbery", Lex Luthor's mind has been accidentally put into Flash's body. He tries to escape the Watchtower by brute forcing a security door, but is interrupted by Green Lantern and Red Tornado before he can find the right code.
  • In the Justice League two-part episode "A Better World", the Flash uses this approach to try and release Batman from his shackles. However, Batman correctly guesses that the code is 91939, as he and Lord Batman think alike.

Real Life
  • In Fez, many puzzles involve translating messages into button patterns that you must press. For the black monolith puzzle, there is absolutely no in-game clue about the proper button pattern. Since it would have taken years for a single player to test every combination, the players banded together to collaboratively brute-force the answer, setting up websites to keep track of unsuccessful attempts until they finally found the combo that worked.

Subtrope of Try Everything. Contrast One Password Attempt Ever.
Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • June 23, 2017
    SolipSchism
    I like the concept and have definitely seen it in a few places (sadly, none come to mind), but the name is longer than a fucking Leonard Cohen song. I don't really have a better idea off the top of my head, though.
  • June 23, 2017
    Gosicrystal
  • June 23, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    Descriptive, but seems like word salad. There has to be something better.
  • June 23, 2017
    Gosicrystal
    Super Fast Code Bruteforcing? / Super Fast Code Brute Forcing?
  • June 23, 2017
    SolipSchism
    I wish we could just use the common-use term "brute-force attack", but obviously that title would confuse somebody who'd assume it was about physical confrontations.
  • June 23, 2017
    NightShade96
    • In the Justice League two-part episode "A Better World", the Flash uses this approach to try and release Batman from his shackles. However, Batman correctly guesses that the code is 91939, as he and Lord Batman think alike.
  • June 23, 2017
    Getta
    Subtrope of Try Everything
  • June 23, 2017
    Arivne
    • Corrected punctuation (added commas, added periods at the ends of sentences).
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Added media section titles.
      • Deleted "The page quote from... is the simplest example" as per How To Write An Example - Remember That This Is A Wiki.
  • June 23, 2017
    Arivne
    Film
    • War Games. When the NORAD Artificial Intelligence Joshua wants to launch the U.S. land-based ICBM force at the Soviet Union, he sends random combinations of alphanumeric characters to the computers controlling the missile silos until he hits the launch code.
  • June 23, 2017
    Arivne
  • June 24, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    Should we remove the superspeed requirement and just make this Brute Force Code Cracking? Are there enough examples of a character given enough time to find a code given enough attempts (and without setting off an alarm)?
  • June 24, 2017
    MetaFour
    Yeah, it looks like we may need to go for the broader trope.

    Not sure if this would fall under Videogame or Real Life:
    • In Fez, many puzzles involve translating messages into button patterns that you must press. For the black monolith puzzle, there is absolutely no in-game clue about the proper button pattern. Since it would have taken years for a single player to test every combination, the players banded together to collaboratively brute-force the answer, setting up websites to keep track of unsuccessful attempts until they finally found the combo that worked.
  • July 26, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    The most recent season of The Flash has an episode where Barry must do this to deactivate a missile launcher that is aimed at Central City. At least his friends back at STAR Labs tell him specifically that a wrong answer won't make anything explode.

  • July 26, 2017
    Gosicrystal
    ^ Examples Are Not Recent. Please specify which season it is.
  • July 27, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    The third season episode "Attack on Central City."
  • July 27, 2017
    Sputnik
    Shouldn't this be a subsection of Hollywood hacking?
  • July 27, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Young punk John Connor from Terminator 2 Judgment Day takes a notebook computer with a ribbon wire peripheral to an ATM. There, John inserts the peripheral into the card slot, and runs a PIN generator until it stumbles across the correct access code (out of ten thousand at most). In seconds, John has a handful of cash. Why an ATM would accept PIN input from a mag stripe reader instead of the usual keypad is never explained.
  • July 28, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    No, that's another trope. This is manual input only. Your example is "hacking", not "cracking."
  • July 28, 2017
    BreadBull
    Ben 10 Omniverse: Episode "Ben 23" has Ben trying to disarm a bomb attached to the arm of his parallel universe counterpart, by going through every single combination possible.

    Doctor Who: "Dalek", the Ninth Doctor stumbles upon a Dalek at a facility. The workers close a door on it which requires entering a code to unlock, which the Doctor replies won't stop it for long.
    Bywater: I've sealed the compartment. It can't get out, that lock's got a billion combinations.
    The Doctor: The Dalek's a genius. It can calculate a thousand billion combinations in one second flat.

    One episode of Family Guy also has something similar, although it involved phone numbers instead.
  • July 30, 2017
    Generality
    ^ Notably, the Dalek forces the lock by using its unarticulated plunger arm against the keypad, entering combinations far more rapidly than the keypad should have been able to handle.
  • September 6, 2017
    Rytex
    Yu Gi Oh! Abridged Season 3 has Melvin (Marik's dark side) attempting to break into the infamous locked door. At first he uses 4-letter words having to do with pain, but then he starts the usual number combination tries. The code ends up being 9999, but behind this locked door is a second locked door.
  • September 6, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Lieutenant Data from Star Trek Nemesis rescues his captain from a Reman brig, and escorts him to the shuttle bay of the Scimitar. While Captain Picard conducts a firefight with a Reman security squad, Data tries to crack to shuttle bay access code. After eight failed attempts and much polite urging from Picard, Data succeeds in his ninth input.
  • October 16, 2017
    Snowy66
    Wouldn't a better title be Every Possible Combination?
  • September 7, 2017
    PistolsAtDawn
    • In Spiderman Homecoming, Peter is locked in an underground vault. Karen helps him hack the system to get out, which requires him to input every code between 0 and 300.
  • September 7, 2017
    ZuTheSkunk
    • Portal 2:
      • When Wheatley's attempt at bringing an escape pod goes awry and he instead accidentally initiates the power-up sequence for GLaDOS, he tries to stop it by attempting to brute-force the password. Very, very slowly. Obviously, it doesn't work.
      • During the final boss fight, if you loiter around long enough, Wheatley will once again try to brute-force a password, this time to the facility's Vital Maintenance Protocols, and after his first two attempts fail, he'll instead throw a random password in desperation. Amazingly, it works. Too bad that in his stupidity, he ends up deleting the contents shortly after.
  • September 7, 2017
    Koveras
    Note that lock-after-X-failures mechanism is not the only thing preventing brute force attacks. Modern cryptography is practically all about finding algorithms where a linear increase in key length corresponds to exponential increase in brute-force attempts. Read: Past a certain code length, it doesn't matter if you can move at the speed of light, you'll still need thousands of years to try out every code.
  • September 7, 2017
    Omeganian
    See also Password Slot Machine.

    Done twice by Superman is Lois And Clark. Attempted by Flash in Justice League
  • September 7, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In Ben 10 Omniverse, Ben as XLR8 types in every combination for a bomb's disarming code.

    • In Wolverine And The X Men, Quicksilver speed types in order to guess a computer password, to which he is granted access.

    Another examples for The Flash 2014
    • In "Family of Rogues", Barry poses as a tech support expert to help Snart trick his father. Barry pretends to use his computer skills to hack a control panel, while in reality he uses super speed to enter every possible combination.
  • September 7, 2017
    BKelly95
    This can be prevented by One Password Attempt Ever.
  • October 15, 2017
    Exxolon
    In the unpicked up pilot Northstar ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091650/ ), the astronaut protagonist gains powers from looking directly at the sun on a mission - whenever his eyes are exposed to sunlight on Earth he gains increasing powers and abilities the longer he's exposed but it gets more dangerous for him. He discovered his powers after walking out into a bright sunlit day from a secure facility, panicking when his eyes were exposed to sunlight and he started having weird side effects and running back towards the facility and brute forcing a four digit electronic combination lock within ten seconds to get back into the darker interior.
  • September 20, 2017
    Snowy66
  • October 12, 2017
    ZuTheSkunk
    Bump?
  • October 12, 2017
    Bisected8
    • In Life Is Strange, this is the solution to a few puzzles:
      • When trying to unlock Nathan's phone, this is subverted as an Anti Frustration Feature if you can't guess the correct pin from the information you're given. Entering the wrong PIN 3 times gives you the option of simply entering the PUK (which you have readily available).
      • This is an option when you need the keycode for entering The Dark Room (you're given it, but the document in question is one you probably forgot you even saw). You have to use Max's time rewinding powers to get past the limited amount of guesses you have. The amount of guesses you need to make is reduced considerably by the fact that the numbers that make up the 3 digit code are noticeably worn down.
  • October 12, 2017
    Antigone3
    In Real Life, this is pretty much how the Enigma traffic was broken in World War II. Oh, the Allied codebreakers took advantage of known German cipher procedure to narrow down the options, but ultimately the bombe was a mechanical version of this trope, trying every possible cipher key much faster than a human cryptographer could.
  • October 12, 2017
    Ominae
    In Grand Theft Auto V, Michael, Franklin and a team of freelance robbers break into FIB Headquarters to steal a hard drive that contains classified data on their activities. If you use the helicopter insertion method, you'll land on the roof of the FIB HQ building and you'll arrive at the server room where you'll use a brute force password program made by the selected hacker of the player's choice to break into the servers since they're protected by passwords.
  • October 15, 2017
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Changed media section title to All Caps.
      • Italicized work names as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
  • October 16, 2017
    Orbiting
    • In ‘’Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors’’, Lotus cracks the password of the laboratory’s computer by inputting passwords until she finds the right one, revealing Hidden Depths of computer expertise to do so. As it was part of a puzzle designed by Zero for them to have a fighting chance of solving, it makes sense that it would not stop accepting passwords after a number of incorrect ones.
  • October 16, 2017
    Omeganian
    • In Lois And Clark, Superman used his Super Speed at least twice to access the villains' files that way.
    • In the short story "The Mothballed Spaceship" from the Deathworld series, the heroes try to access the titular battleship that way. The idea itself is sound, but the ship cannot process the sent codes fast enough to complete the task in time.
  • November 1, 2017
    Snowy66
    I'll only support this one if the title of the trope is changed.
  • November 1, 2017
    ZuTheSkunk
    ^ Why is the title bad?
  • November 1, 2017
    Snowy66
    ^It doesn't quite convey the meaning the trope is suggesting. "Brute Force" sounds like someone bashing the key pad, while this is more about speed typing in codes.
  • November 1, 2017
    Bisected8
    Actually, Brute Force means "trying every possible combination of passwords/codes until you guess it".

    Speaking of:

    • Modern encryption defies this trope by using 128 to 256 bit keys (as opposed to the 56 bit keys that were considered military technology back in the 70's). Breaking a 128 bit key, using computer hardware that has reached the theoretical limit of current technology, would take a large proportion of Earth's energy production simply to power a computer capable of doing so. However, since there are more energy efficient ways of getting raw processing power, sometimes the larger standard is preferred. Breaking a 256 bit key with a computer that could check 1 billion billion passwords a second would take roughly 3 sexdecillionnote  years to try every possible combination.
  • November 8, 2017
    Ominae
    Me things the brief overview needs a wee bit more expanding.
  • November 8, 2017
    LB7979
    Literature

    • Digital Fortress: Discussed thoroughly and deconstructed; the titular computer the NSA possesses, supposedly perfected this and should be able to crack any code within reasonable time. Then villains send the NSA a code that according to them is "Brute Force Proof" because it changes its own encryption algorithm frequently. Also reconstructed when in the end it turns out the sent code never was a Brute Force Cracking-proof code, and the villains never circumvented Brute Force Code Cracking; the alleged "code" was a virus deliberately made to destroy the Digital Fortress computer.
  • November 8, 2017
    MetaFour
    Just noticed that Open Says Me has a single-sentence mention of this trope in its description: "Occasionally you have a speedster or a robot picking the lock by blazing through all combinations faster than the human eye can follow."
  • November 8, 2017
    Menarker
    Dictionary Attack: "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 hundreds or sometimes millions of likely possibilities, such as words in a dictionary."
  • November 10, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Live-Action TV:
    • In the Doctor Who Series 1 episode Dalek, the eponymous Arch Enemy of the Doctor was locked in a room with a keylock. Henry van Statten says that is an advanced computer system with millions of possible combinations and it's impossible to be opened. The Doctor refuted him when he advices him about daleks, and later proved by the dalek, opening the door in few minutes.
  • November 10, 2017
    NateTheGreat
    More details, please.
  • November 10, 2017
    Koveras
    • In Dishonored 2, it is possible to brute-force the "unbreakable" Jindosh puzzle lock in 120 attempts in the worst case (60 on average), which is actually 8 times faster than any regular digit-based code lock in the game, which requires trying out a 1000 combinations (500 on average). That said, coming up with an efficient brute-force method is about as challenging as solving the lock's underlying "Einstein riddle", as the developers had intended.
  • November 10, 2017
    TheWanderer
    • At one point in The Last Days Of FOXHOUND, the character Nano Jackal uses this technique to break into the email account of a Corrupt Corporate Executive. (Whose password apparently was "iluvmoney.") As she is essentially something of a cyborg and can connect herself to the computer terminal and have a program try every 9 letter combination in existence while she takes a short nap, this case is better justified than some cases. (And the author takes a moment to lampshade the Insecurity System at play by titling that particular comic strip "This is not how cryptography works.")
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